BEIRUT — Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salameh is facing increased calls for his resignation, including from several ministers and parliamentary committees, since Interpol issued a rest warrant for his arrest.
Meanwhile, the US State Department urged Lebanon's government to "respect the process of appointing a new [bank] governor."
During a Tuesday joint parliamentary committee meeting, Parliament Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab — who is both a member of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) parliamentary group and close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri — said the committees believe the current situation is "not healthy."
He expressed regret that Salameh might remain at his post as Banque du Liban (BDL governor until the end of his term, which expires in July. Bou Saab also said he "hoped" that Salameh will take the "appropriate decision."
"It would be good if the governor of the central bank resigned," he suggested.
Salameh is the subject of several investigations, both in Lebanon and in Europe, for financial crimes. Last week, Lebanon was served an Interpol red notice for Salameh after a French judge issued an international warrant for his arrest.
On Tuesday, Germany verbally informed Lebanon of an arrest warrant against Riad Salameh "for corruption, forgery, money laundering and embezzlement," according to Reuters, which quoted a senior judicial source.
Hearing before the Lebanese justice
Salameh appeared at the Court of Cassation on Wednesday afternoon to answer questions about the French arrest warrant and the Interpol red notice.
Despite multiple calls for his resignation in recent days, the cabinet — which informally met Monday afternoon — has not issued any concrete measures to remove him from office, but instead decided to leave the case in the hands of the judiciary.
This decision reportedly displeased caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury, who is close to former President Michel Aoun. On Monday, Khoury issued a statement claiming his "refusal to let the ball be in the Lebanese justice's court."
He also urged for "the Salameh case to be treated according to the French arrest warrant to take the necessary measures and ask the governor to resign."
Earlier on Monday, Khoury directly called on Salameh to resign, saying that the French proceedings against him could have repercussions on the monetary situation in Lebanon.
On Tuesday, Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar, who is close to the FPM, also spoke out in favor of the governor's removal: "I, Hector Najib Hajjar, am in favor of the dismissal and trial of Riad Salameh," he wrote on Twitter.
On the opposite side, caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil, considered close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, told al-Jadeed on Tuesday that he is "against the resignation of Riad Salameh because [he] will leave the BDL anyway after the end of his term."
"The governor has refused to extend his mandate," Khalil added.
Contacted by L'Orient-Le Jour, MP Michel Moussa, a member of the Amal parliamentary group, said his bloc "has not yet met to discuss the case Salameh."
"It is rather the responsibility of the cabinet, not the Parliament, to decide on his resignation," Moussa added.
On May 18, deputy caretaker Prime Minister Saadeh Chami called for the dismissal of Salameh. Chami is affiliated with the Syrian National Social Party (SNSP), with whom Bou Saab is also affiliated.
The next day, caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said he believes Salameh's resignation to be "necessary."
On Tuesday, the US State Department also commented on the Salameh affair in a press briefing.
Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for US diplomacy, refused to directly answer a question about the French and German arrest warrants but urged "the Lebanese government to determine who should continue to hold the [BDL governor] position."
"We are working with the officially-appointed governor," Miller said. "It is important that the Lebanese government respect the process in place to appoint a new governor and focus on stabilizing the Lebanese economy and implementing meaningful change."
After French investigating judge Aude Buresi issued an international arrest warrant for Salameh on May 16, the central bank governor said he planned to appeal the decision.
Two days later, he indicated that he would resign "if a judgment was rendered" against him and confirmed that he would, in any case, leave office at the end of his term on July 31.
Salameh also stated that he would appeal the Interpol red notice.