Lebanon judge questions central bank chief Riad Salameh over Munich arrest warrant
A Lebanese judge questioned central bank chief Riad Salameh on Wednesday after Beirut received a second Interpol Red Notice targeting him, this time following an arrest warrant from Munich, a judicial official said.
Salameh has been the subject of a series of judicial probes both at home and abroad into the fortune he has amassed during some three decades in the job.
France earlier this month issued an arrest warrant for Salameh after he failed to appear for questioning in Paris.
On Wednesday, Lebanese judge Imad Qabalan questioned Salameh over accusations of "money laundering, fraud, embezzlement and illicit enrichment", the judicial official said, requesting anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.
Two days earlier, Lebanon received an Interpol Red Notice pursuant to the arrest warrant issued in absentia by Munich's public prosecutor, according to the judicial official.
Last week Qabalan had questioned Salameh, banned him from travelling, confiscated his French and Lebanese passports and released him pending investigation, after receiving the first Interpol Red Notice, issued following the French arrest warrant.
An Interpol Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant but asks authorities worldwide to provisionally detain people pending possible extradition or other legal actions.
Lebanon does not extradite its nationals but Salameh could go on trial in Lebanon if local judicial authorities decide the accusations against him are founded, an official previously told AFP.
Qabalan on Wednesday again banned Salameh from travel and released him pending investigation, the judicial official said.
He also requested Salameh's file from the judiciary in Munich and noted that "only the Lebanese judiciary has the authority to try him", the official added.
In March 2022, France, Germany and Luxembourg seized assets worth 120 million euros ($130 million) in a move linked to a probe into Salameh's wealth.
In February, Lebanon charged Salameh with embezzlement, money laundering and tax evasion as part of its own investigations.
The domestic probe was opened following a request for assistance from Switzerland's public prosecutor looking into more than $300 million in fund movements by Salameh and his brother.
Salameh, who was questioned for more than an hour on Wednesday, again "denied all charges against him" and said wealth came from private sources, the official added.
Salameh continues to serve as central bank governor. His mandate ends in July.
Activists say the travel ban helps shield him from being brought to justice abroad - and from potentially bringing down others in the entrenched political class, which is widely blamed for endemic corruption in the crisis-hit country.
His brother Raja was due to appear for questioning in France on Wednesday, but his lawyer said he was unable to attend due to medical reasons and the judge postponed the session for two months, the official added.