BEIRUT — Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Banque du Liban (BDL) Vice Governor Wassim Mansouri is preparing to take over the responsibilities of central bank chief Riad Salameh, whose term in office expires at the end of July. Salameh is the subject of several investigations into financial wrongdoing in both Lebanon and a number of European jurisdictions, and warrants for his arrest have been issued by France and Germany.
"It is normal, following the vacancy at the head of the BDL, for the governor's prerogatives to be transferred to the vice governor, in accordance with the Code of Money and Credit," Mikati said in an interview published Tuesday in the Lebanese daily Annahar. "We attach great importance to the work of BDL and the preservation of financial and monetary stability," he added.
In the absence of a president of Lebanon since the end of Michel Aoun's mandate in October 2022, and with the caretaker government's remit limited to managing day-to-day affairs, the executive cannot legally appoint a new governor to head the BDL.
Mikati stressed that "it is necessary to reach an agreement in order to ensure proper continuity [of the BDL's work]."
"We have been in contact with Wassim Mansouri, who is preparing to assume the responsibilities of governor of BDL," he continued.
His comments come as Riad Salameh is the subject of multiple criminal investigations into alleged financial crimes in Lebanon and Europe, and is the target of international arrest warrants issued by the French and German courts, accompanied by Interpol red notices. Salameh denies the charges against him.
Saadeh Chami, caretaker deputy prime minister, has called for the BDL boss to resign, and several MPs have called for him to be removed from his post as soon as possible.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah had paved the way for Mansouri to become the head of BDL. If Mansouri succeeds Salameh, the central bank would for the first time be governed by a Shiite — the post is traditionally reserved for a Maronite Christian.