BEIRUT — Caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury on Wednesday said that the visit of European judges scheduled for this week to investigate alleged financial malpractice involving Banque du Liban's governor, Riad Salameh, will be rejected "if [the visit] violates Lebanon's sovereignty."
In a press conference, Khoury said the European judges should "abide by the rules of the Lebanese law" and that "every international cooperation that takes place according to these rules will not violate Lebanon's sovereignty. Every deference from those rules ... will be surely met with rejection from the specialized judiciary authorities and from this ministry."
Delegations composed of prosecutors, investigating judges, and financial prosecutors from France, Germany, and Luxembourg, are scheduled to land in Beirut sometime before Jan. 20 to investigate claims of embezzlement, illicit enrichment, and money laundering.
The visit is sparking controversy among local judicial circles. While some pundits consider the investigation to be legal in the sense that it falls within the framework of the United Nations Convention against Corruption — which Lebanon joined in 2009 — others deem it an encroachment on Lebanese sovereignty.
In his press conference, Khoury explained that Lebanon has signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption and therefore the European judges "do not need a warranty to implement any foreign judicial measure from foreign judges on Lebanese land."
Khoury also said a French judiciary delegation is scheduled to arrive in Lebanon on Jan. 23 with the aim of cooperating in the Aug. 4, 2020 port explosion probe. The investigation into the port explosion is currently suspended due to numerous requests filed by senior politicians against its head judge Tarek Bitar, which automatically pause the investigation.