Lebanon must name successor to Riad Salameh as central bank chief before mandate expires, demand vice-governors

Lebanon must name successor to Riad Salameh as central bank chief before mandate expires, demand vice-governors
With the country locked in a political deadlock at every level and the economy in freefall, the vice-governors of Lebanon's central bank have demanded that the successor of outgoing bank chief Riad Salameh must be named.
2 min read
06 July, 2023
Current bank chief Riad Salameh is accused of extensive corruption at home and abroad [Getty]

The vice-governors of crisis-hit Lebanon's central bank urged authorities on Thursday to name a successor to embattled bank chief Riad Salameh, whose mandate expires at the end of July.

Despite reeling from nearly four years of economic meltdown, Lebanon has been governed by a caretaker cabinet with limited powers and without a president since 2022.

Once hailed as the guardian of the country's financial stability, Salameh has been accused of amassing a fortune during some three decades in the post.

He is wanted by France and Germany in connection with alleged financial irregularities, but Lebanon does not extradite its citizens.

Salameh has been the subject of judicial investigations both at home and abroad into allegations including embezzlement, money laundering, fraud and illicit enrichment. He denies the accusations.

Lebanon now faces the prospect of a leadership crisis at the helm of the central bank when Salameh's term expires at the end of this month.

"With the end of the central bank governor's term approaching on July 31, 2023, it is our duty to stress the necessity of appointing a governor as soon as possible," Salameh's four vice-governors said in a joint statement on Thursday.

"Otherwise we will be forced to take appropriate action in the public interest," they added, without elaborating.

The central bank governor in Lebanon is named by cabinet decree for a six-year mandate, based on the finance minister's recommendation.

If no name for the position is put forward, the first vice-governor is supposed to take over.

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In a country of sectarian power-sharing, the position of central bank governor is usually reserved for a Christian Maronite.

"Caretaker rule cannot apply to the highest monetary authority," the vice-governors' statement added.

Lebanon's governing elite, locked in a power struggle, has been widely blamed for the country's financial meltdown and its power vacuums.

No group has a clear majority in parliament, and lawmakers have failed 12 times to elect a new president amid bitter divisions between the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement and its opponents.

Lebanese media had reported that the vice-governors may resign at the end of Salameh's mandate to press authorities to name a new central bank chief -- and skirt any responsibility for the repercussions of Salameh's departure from power.