BEIRUT — The Lebanese cabinet on Friday tasked caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil and caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury with managing the case of Banque Du Liban (BDL) Governor Riad Salameh, according to a Friday announcement.
Salameh is being prosecuted in Lebanon and several European countries for corruption, forgery, money laundering and embezzlement. He is the target of an international arrest warrant and an Interpol red notice
The cabinet tasked Khalil with drawing up a report on the Salemeh case, while Khoury is tasked with rendering a judicial opinion, caretaker Information Minister Ziad Makari announced after Friday's formal cabinet meeting.
"The Minister of Finance has been instructed to draw up a detailed report on the consequences of the proceedings against Riad Salameh abroad on the performance of his duties, and its impact on the operation of the central bank," Makari announced. "The Minister of Justice has been instructed to provide an appropriate legal opinion."
As a former senior BDL employee, Khalil was questioned by European investigators earlier this month. The European investigators were in Lebanon as part of the inquiry into suspicions of financial malfeasance involving Salameh and his brother, Raja.
At the opening of Friday's cabinet session, Mikati said he felt the Salameh case "is in the hands of the judges, and within the framework of Lebanese law," as agreed during a meeting at the Serail on Monday.
"We must not show that one side wants revenge and the other wants to ensure [Salameh's] protection," Mikati said. "It's very easy to say that the governor must be dismissed immediately. But out of respect for the institutions and for the opinions of the ministers here ... I will propose this subject for discussion now, in order to take an appropriate decision."
Cabinet vice-president Saadeh Chami specifically requested that the fate of the BDL governor be examined. However, the Salameh case was not listed among the 72 items on the official agenda for Friday's meeting.
The cabinet meeting was criticized by several political camps, including the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and its leader, Gebran Bassil, who called the meeting a "provocation" and "a blow to the Constitution." Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea also called the meeting "unconstitutional."
"The presidential election is still in the unknown, with conditions imposed on both sides by the political groups in Parliament," said Mikati at the start of the Friday session. "Ironically, it's the camp that is calling for the cabinet not to meet that is asking for items to be included on the agenda."
Following the departure of former President Michel Aoun, Parliament decided in favor of cabinet meetings reserved for "urgent matters."
The FPM criticized the cabinet meetings held since Aoun's departure, calling them "unconstitutional" amid a presidential vacancy. The party's ministers have repeatedly boycotted the meetings.