BEIRUT — Vice-president of the caretaker government, Saadeh Chami, called on BDL Governor Riad Salameh to resign Thursday, following the international arrest warrant issued against him on May 16. This call comes hours after ten independent MPs called for the governor to be "removed from his post as soon as possible."
In an interview with the Associated Press, Chami stressed that Salameh's allegations jeopardize the credibility of the government and "could threaten Lebanon's financial relations with the rest of the world." This includes the International Monetary Fund, with which Saade Chami is in negotiations with in hopes of unlocking $3 billion in aid to help the country.
With his remarks, Chami became the highest ranking Lebanese official to call for the resignation of the governor. In an interview with the pan-Arab channel al-Hadath on Thursday, Salameh said he would resign "if a judgment is rendered" against him, but that he would leave his post at the end of his term on July 31. Although the deputy prime minister believes that Salameh is innocent until proven guilty, he noted that "it is neither possible nor acceptable for someone who is accused of multiple alleged financial crimes in several countries to continue to serve [as governor of the BDL]."
"It would be better if he [Salameh] resigned, and if not, the government must make a decision," Chami remarked. If Salameh's replacement is not immediately agreed upon, the first deputy governor of the BDL Wassim Mansouri will automatically take over. The possibility of Mansouri's succession was confirmed Thursday by Salameh himself during his interview with al-Hadath.
Remove Salameh ‘as soon as possible’
In a joint statement, MPs Elias Jarade, Firas Hamdan, Cynthia Zarazir, Melhem Khalaf, Najat Aoun Saliba, Ibrahim Mneimneh, Charbel Massaad, Yassine Yassine, Paula Yacoubian and Halime Kaakour, described the Lebanese state's lack of responsiveness to the BDL governor's prosecution as "shameful."
The MPs stated that their intention was to "hold the Lebanese authorities accountable," including caretaker Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, outgoing Minister of Interior, Bassam Mawlawi, and the General Prosecutor of Cassation, Ghassan Oueidate (if the arrest warrant is not executed). They also want to “form a parliamentary commission of inquiry to determine the legal responsibilities resulting from the offenses of the governor of the BDL, and define the legal responsibilities of all those who cover and support him among people occupying official positions."
The ten MPs further demanded "the removal of Riad Salameh from his position, as soon as possible".
After the publication of the French judicial decision against Salameh, the caretaker Minister of Interior Bassam Mawlawi said on Tuesday that the governor cannot be arrested or prosecuted in Lebanon if Interpol does not first issue an arrest warrant. One French lawyer said that Salameh, now cast in the role of "fugitive," is in no position to appeal the arrest warrant, which is something he can do only when he is under arrest.
Salameh, accused of misappropriating public funds, is the subject of several investigations in both Lebanon and in Europe.