Lebanon receives Interpol red notice for central bank governor - minister

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh speaks during an interview in Beirut

BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanon has received an Interpol notice issued for its central bank governor Riad Salameh, the country's caretaker interior minister Bassam Mawlawi told Reuters on Friday, saying he would implement it if the judiciary instructed him to do so.

The notice was issued after France put out its own arrest warrant for Salameh as part of its investigation into whether the governor embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds, an accusation he denies.

It is the first known warrant issued in connection with any of the five foreign investigations being carried out into the 72-year-old Lebanese central bank governor.

Mawlawi said the Interpol red notice had been issued on Wednesday and that he had informed Lebanon's judiciary the following morning.

"Whatever the judiciary says, we will do," Mawlawi said.

He added that he believed it was "necessary" for Salameh to resign. Lebanon's deputy prime minister called on the governor to step down on Thursday.

Both said the issue was to be discussed at a consultative cabinet meeting on Monday but was already part of talks among the country's senior leaders.

"It's being seriously discussed," Mawlawi said.

Once a regular at banking summits and high-class restaurants in Europe, Salameh is now rarely seen in public, except for semi-regular television interviews defending his record.

He has long retained the support of key players in Lebanon's political class but with two top officials now saying he should resign, it appears that support is beginning to fray more rapidly.

His departure would mark a milestone in Lebanon's financial meltdown which resulted from decades of profligate spending, corruption and unsustainable financial policies by leaders who have left the crisis to fester since 2019.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Maya Gebeily; Editing by Hugh Lawson, William Maclean)