Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh has decided to skip the scheduled May 16 interrogation session in Paris, opting instead to retire in Sharjah, UAE, according to media reports.
Salameh reportedly fears detention or a travel ban if he travels to France. His legal team will argue that he has not been officially notified of the French interrogation request.
Lebanese investigative judge Charbel Abou Samra confirmed to al-Akhbar newspaper that Salameh has not been officially informed of the session’s date. “I have not found him anywhere and accordingly he has not been notified in the proper manner,” Abou Samra said.
A judicial official confirmed that Salameh will miss the hearing after Lebanese police failed to deliver a summons. The police visited the central bank four times last week to hand Salameh an official summons on behalf of the French authorities but were unable to locate him.
A security officer at the central bank provided various reasons for Salameh’s absence, including that he had just left the building, was in a meeting, or could not come to his workplace for “security reasons.”
French judge Aude Buresi had previously informed Salameh that he was officially asked to appear before her on May 16 in Paris.
However, Judge Abu Samra intervened, stating that the French judiciary should request the Lebanese judiciary to carry out the notification, as it is the only authority entitled to do so.
Despite this, Salameh was not notified, leading him to use this as leverage. His legal team informed the French that he had not been notified of the session’s date.
Abou Samra has been accused of failing to carry out the notification in a legal manner. However, sources told al-Akhbar that the situation has been manipulated by officials who support Salameh in all Lebanese authorities.
Salameh, 72, is part of the Lebanese political class widely blamed for a crushing economic crisis that began in late 2019. He faces allegations of crimes including embezzlement in separate probes in Lebanon and abroad.
European investigators, including representatives of authorities in France, Germany, and Luxembourg, are looking into allegations of financial misconduct, including possible money laundering and embezzlement.
Salameh maintains his innocence and has pledged to provide all documents tracing the sources of his wealth. Members of the European delegation returned to Beirut in April and questioned Salameh’s brother Raja and former assistant Marianne Hoayek.
They also interrogated caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil on May 5.