In Lebanon, the governor of the Central Bank Riad Salamé bans leaving the country
Targeted by a French arrest warrant for acts of corruption and massive embezzlement of public funds, Riad Salamé, the powerful head of the Lebanese Central Bank, had his passports confiscated by the Lebanese courts and was banned from leave Lebanon.
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His detractors say of him that he is one of the main responsible for the unprecedented crisis that his country is going through. Lebanese justice on Wednesday May 24 seized the passports of the powerful governor of the Central Bank Riad Salamé, targeted by an arrest warrant issued by French justice, and prohibited him from leaving the territory, a source told AFP. judicial.
The governor of the BDL, closely linked to the political class, is suspected of having built up a rich real estate and banking heritage in Europe through a complex financial arrangement and massive embezzlement of Lebanese public funds.
Summoned to Paris for an indictment on May 16, he did not appear for questioning and has since been the subject of an arrest warrant issued by a judge in charge of investigations in France.
Lebanon had received Interpol’s red notice last week, based on this arrest warrant, but it does not extradite its nationals.
Riad Salamé appeared on Wednesday before the Advocate General at the Court of Cassation, Imad Kabalan, who informed him of the charges against him based on the notice, including “embezzlement” and “money laundering “.
The magistrate forbade him to leave Lebanese territory and decided to seize his two passports, Lebanese and French, according to the same source.
A maneuver to escape French justice?
The decisions of Judge Kabalan could constitute a maneuver to evade the decisions of French justice, told AFP lawyer Karim Daher, engaged in the fight against corruption.
“When he is forbidden to travel, he is forbidden to appear before foreign justice,” he said. “He is therefore the hostage of the corrupt Lebanese power, which has no interest in the secrets of which he is the guardian being revealed”, explains the lawyer.
During the interrogation, Riad Salamé, 72, “denied all the charges against him”, repeating that he amassed his fortune when he worked in the American investment bank Merrill Lynch before taking the head of the BDL in 1993. He further asked to “be tried in Lebanon”.
Judge Kabalan asked the French courts to hand over the case file to him. If he concludes that the charges of money laundering and illicit enrichment are founded, Riad Salamé will be tried in his country, indicated the judicial source.
“Lebanese justice has shown that it is not independent, and that it is subservient to politicians, with the exception of a handful of judges”, lamented Karim Daher.
Also in the sights of Germany
According to another judicial source, the Lebanese public prosecutor was informed on Wednesday by a delegation from the German embassy that the public prosecutor of Munich had also issued an arrest warrant against Riad Salamé and that Interpol would be notified.
Since the French judge issued an arrest warrant against Riad Salamé, the main Lebanese officials have kept an embarrassed silence on this affair.
Some ministers and opposition deputies have demanded that the governor, whose mandate expires in July, be removed from office.
Riad Salamé enjoys good relations with a large part of the political class, which defends its monetary policy in a country which has been experiencing a serious economic crisis since the fall of 2019.
Read also Riad Salamé, the great treasurer of Lebanon targeted by French justice
In March 2022, France, Germany and Luxembourg froze 120 million euros in Lebanese assets suspected of belonging to Riad Salamé. And since the beginning of the year, European judges have traveled to Lebanon three times to question him and his relatives.
The Paris Court of Appeal must rule on July 4 on the validity of seizures made on the real estate and banking assets in Europe of Riad Salamé, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Another Lebanese personality to have been targeted by an international arrest warrant, Carlos Ghosn, the former boss of the Renault-Nissan automobile alliance, has been living in Beirut without being worried since his incredible escape from Japan at the end of 2019.