Following the French arrest warrant, the judiciary confiscated the passport of the head of the Lebanese central bank
BEIRUT — A Lebanese judge on Wednesday questioned the country’s embattled central bank governor and confiscated his Lebanese and French passports after France issued an arrest warrant on corruption charges, judicial officials said.
Riad Salameh left immediately after being questioned by Judge Imad Kabalan in Beirut, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The interrogation lasted about 80 minutes, they said.
France, Germany and Luxembourg are investigating Salameh and his associates for a range of alleged financial crimes, including the illicit enrichment and money laundering of $330 million. On May 16, a French investigative judge issued an international arrest warrant and an Interpol red notice against Salameh, 72, after he failed to appear for questioning in Paris.
On Wednesday, a German delegation visited the justice center in Beirut and handed over five arrest warrants issued in Germany for Salameh and four others on corruption charges, officials said. The names of the other four have not been released.
Now that Salameh’s passport has been confiscated, Lebanon’s state prosecutor, Ghassan Oueidat, is formally asking France to hand over the governor’s case files to decide on future action against Salameh.
Lebanese officials are divided over whether Salameh should remain in office until the end of his term in July or resign immediately. Lebanon does not hand over its citizens to foreign countries, the case will be supervised in Lebanon.
Justice officials said earlier this week that once Oueidat receives the case file from France, he will decide whether Salameh will face justice in Lebanon.
In 2020, Lebanese prosecutors received two red notices from Interpol against tycoon Carlos Ghosn, who was accused of financial abuse in Japan. Ghosn remains in Lebanon.
Salameh, who holds dual citizenship from Lebanon and France, has repeatedly denied any corruption allegations, saying he made his fortune from his years as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch, property inheritance and investments. He said he would only resign if found guilty. He also said last week that he intends to appeal the Interpol red notice.
Salameh has been in his post for almost 30 years, but says he plans to leave after his current term expires in July.
In March 2022, the three European governments froze more than $130 million in assets related to the investigation. During the visit to Lebanon in March, the European delegation questioned Salameh about the Lebanese central bank’s assets and investments outside the country, the governor’s apartment in Paris, and his brother’s brokerage firm.
Once hailed as the guardian of Lebanon’s financial stability, Salameh has since been heavily blamed for Lebanon’s financial collapse. Many believe he triggered the economic crisis that plunged three-quarters of Lebanon’s 6 million people into poverty.