BEIRUT — BDL Governor Riad Salameh said he will resign from his position if “judgement” is issued against him on Thursday. He also indicated that he would attend any judicial hearing if it is "done in accordance with the law,” and stated that he is prepared to go through the “unjust lawful path," during an interview with Al Hadath.
French investigating magistrate, Judge Aude Buresi, on Tuesday issued an international arrest warrant for Salameh. In response, Salameh accused the Judge of issuing a decision that breaches the law and stated that he will "therefore appeal to the decision."
Salameh earlier failed to appear for questioning before French investigators questioning his European assets, his lawyer said.
Salameh advised the judiciary to “begin [prosecuting] politicians and not with the governor of the central bank,” and added that he will not “allow the banks to go bankrupt.”
He claimed that “the depositors would be able to get back their money.”
Angry depositors have repeatedly taken to the streets in recent months — sometimes vandalizing ATM machines and bank fronts or storming bank branches in response to the de facto capital controls imposed since October 2019.
Addressing the country's financial issues, Salameh said that "the central bank will intervene and will not accept that the exchange rate fluctuates further." In recent months, the BDL has repeatedly allowed individuals and companies to exchange their currencies at the rate of the Sayrafa platform, which has helped stabilize the parallel market rate.
Salameh also referred to the recent World Bank Report on the Sayrafa platform as “stupid.”
The report said that the Sayrafa platform reflected an unwise monetary tool that led to the short-lived appreciation of the Lebanese lira at the expense of dwindling reserves and a weakened BDL balance sheet, especially in the absence of a new exchange rate and monetary framework.
Salameh noted that “what is required from the country months after the crisis is for it to collapse, but it will not collapse.”
During the interview with Al Hadath, he also said that “the authorities that legitimized Qard al-Hassan that belong to Hezbollah should follow up on it.”
Three Lebanese Forces MPs in March had asked the judiciary to open an investigation into the activities of Al-Qard Al-Hasan, a Hezbollah-run micro-lending company sanctioned by the United States.
“The vice-governor will replace me at the end of my term,” Salameh added. The current vice-governor of the BDL is Wassim Mansouri, a Shiite Muslim. His appointment as head of the central bank could spark dismay, especially within the Christian parties. Both the supreme magistracy and the governorship of the central bank are positions traditionally reserved for Maronite Christians.
Salameh, the head of the BDL since 1993, has become the subject of several corruption investigations in Europe and Lebanon, and is accused of amassing vast real estate and banking wealth through embezzlement of public funds. In Lebanon, he is accused of corruption and of being one of the main actors responsible for the financial crisis which has plagued the country since 2019.
More than 24 hours have passed since the warrant was issued and Lebanon’s cabinet has not yet released a statement.