BEIRUT — Lebanon's caretaker cabinet on Monday decided not to take any legislative action against Banque Du Liban (BDL) Governor Riad Salameh after Interpol issued a red notice against him last week.
The cabinet instead opted to defer to the Lebanese judicial system, which on Monday summoned Salameh for questioning in a hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
Under normal circumstances, a fully empowered cabinet would have the authority to dismiss Salameh from his position as BDL governor. However, in caretaker status, the current cabinet is only empowered to make such decisions in the event of "urgent" matters.
During Monday's informal session, the cabinet issued a statement announcing a formal session scheduled for Friday at 3 p.m. The agenda of the Friday meeting "will be distributed later."
Two cabinet ministers told L'Orient Today on conditions of anonymity that, during the informal session — in which 19 of 24 ministers were present — opinions on the Salameh case diverged.
The cabinet ultimately decided to defer to the Lebanese judiciary.
The ministers insisted on the need to preserve state institutions, including BDL, and committed to respecting the decisions of the Lebanese judicial system, the two ministers said.
Salameh is the subject of several investigations in both Lebanon and Europe, where he is suspected of building up real estate and banking assets through complex illicit financial arrangements and massive misappropriation of public funds.
Salameh has repeatedly denied these accusations.
After the international arrest warrant was issued by French investigating judge Aude Buresi, Salameh said he planned to appeal the decision. Two days later, he indicated that he would resign "if a judgment was rendered" against him, but intends to leave his post when his term ends on July 31 regardless of any such judgment.
Salameh also said he would appeal the Interpol red notice.
"There was almost unanimity on sparing the government this decision," caretaker Minister of the Displaced Issam Charafeddine told L'Orient-Le Jour after the unofficial cabinet meeting on Monday.
According to Charafeddine, Mikati warned that, if the government were to discuss this issue further, it would lead to a "tug-of-war" between different factions within the cabinet.
"We agreed to leave the issue in the hands of the judiciary, knowing that all ministers have made it clear that it is the duty of Salameh to resign himself," Charafeddine added.
Caretaker Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada told L'Orient-Le Jour on Sunday that "it is not for the executive to ask, at this stage, for the resignation of Riad Salameh, as there is no clear accusation against him yet."
On Monday, caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury called on Salameh to resign, saying that his prosecution in France could have repercussions on Lebanon's "monetary situation."
Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Saadeh Chami called for Salameh's resignation last Thursday, followed by caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, who called the resignation "necessary."