Second Interpol notice issued for Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salameh

Salameh is the subject of multiple European investigations into the alleged embezzlement of more than $330 million

Riad Salameh, on May 23. Reuters
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Lebanon's central bank governor Riad Salameh appeared at Beirut's Palace of Justice on Wednesday after a second international arrest warrant was issued for him in Europe.

Mr Salameh is the subject of multiple European investigations into the alleged embezzlement of more than $330 million from the Lebanese central bank.

The Interpol red notice came after the German judiciary issued an arrest warrant on May 23.

Mr Salameh is suspected of having laundered ill-gotten funds with the help of his brother Raja in Europe, where he and his entourage own properties valued in the millions.

A red notice is a global call for all Interpol country members to help identify and arrest a fugitive wanted by the judiciary.

Lebanon is not compelled to abide by it and the country has a long-standing policy of not extraditing its citizens.

On May 16, France issued an arrest warrant for Mr Salameh. The governor was questioned the following week by the Attorney General at the Court of Cassation, Imad Kabalan.

Mr Salameh was asked to surrender his French and Lebanese passports to the Lebanese judiciary.

He was barred from leaving the country but remains in his position at the central bank.

Judge Kabalan heard Mr Salameh for a second time, in relation to the German decision, on Wednesday. He asked the governor to remain available to the judiciary, according to the official Lebanese National News Agency.

He also maintained the confiscation of his passports and the travel ban.

Mr Kabalan requested access to details of the case from German prosecutors before making any decision.

He previously asked the same of the French judiciary.

Calls for the governor to resign are multiplying, but the subject remains sensitive as Mr Salameh has long enjoyed strong political support since assuming his mandate in 1993.

The cabinet has entrusted the Lebanese judiciary to decide on his position.

Observers say that the Lebanese judiciary could be delaying any decision, waiting until Mr Salameh's mandate expires at the end of July.

Both brothers have denied any wrongdoing, with Mr Salameh repeatedly stating that he has not received any public funds in his personal accounts.

No show in Paris for Raja Salameh

Raja Salameh was set to be heard in Paris on Wednesday as part of the same embezzlement probe, a judicial source confirmed to The National.

He did not show up for “health reasons,” according to his lawyer, who presented a medical report, as reported by several local media outlets.

Riad and Raja Salameh, along with Marianne Hoayek, the governor's former assistant, are facing local charges including money laundering, embezzlement and illicit enrichment as part of a parallel corruption inquiry opened in Lebanon in 2021.

Raja Salameh was arrested and charged with “complicity in illicit enrichment” in Lebanon last year. He was released on record bail of 100 billion Lebanese pounds ($3.7 million) after two months of detention.

Updated: July 27, 2023, 1:17 PM