Beirut, Lebanon (AFP):
A Lebanese judge has banned the country’s central bank chief Riad Salameh from travelling, days after Beirut received an Interpol red notice following a French arrest warrant, a judicial official said Wednesday.
Salameh, Lebanon’s long-serving central bank chief, has been the target of a series of judicial investigations both at home and abroad on allegations including fraud, money laundering and illicit enrichment.
French investigators suspect that during his three decades in power, Salameh misused public funds to accumulate real estate and banking assets concealed through a complex and fraudulent financial network.
The judge questioned Salameh and “decided to release him pending investigation, ban him from travelling, and confiscate his Lebanese and French passports”, the official told AFP, requesting anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.
The judge also asked the French judiciary to refer Salameh’s file to Beirut in order to “determine whether the Lebanese judiciary will prosecute him for the crimes he is accused of in France or not”, the official added.
Interpol circulated the red notice last week after a French magistrate issued a warrant for Salameh, who failed to appear for questioning in Paris before investigators probing his sizeable assets across Europe.
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 had previously told AFP.