Lebanese ill-gotten gains: French judge issues international arrest warrant against Riad Salamé
The French investigating judge in charge of the investigation into the European heritage of the governor of the Banque du Liban (BDL), Riad Salamé, issued an international arrest warrant on Tuesday for him, after his refusal to appear for questioning. in Paris, AFP learned from a source familiar with the matter.
Mr. Salamé was summoned Tuesday morning for an interrogation with a view to a possible indictment but did not show up because, according to his lawyer Pierre-Olivier Sur, his summons did not respect the rules.
“By having sent the summons less than ten days before the scheduled date of the interrogation, the texts were not respected. The summons is therefore null and void. It is unstoppable,” Me Sur told AFP.
A Lebanese judicial source said Monday that Lebanese police had gone for four consecutive days last week to the headquarters of the Lebanese central bank to issue the summons to Mr. Salamé, without success.
After this refusal to appear, the French magistrate had two options: to reconvene Mr. Salamé or to issue an arrest warrant.
She chose the second, formally implicating Mr. Salamé for the first time in his judicial investigation opened in France since July 2021.
“This arrest warrant, which is based on a non-response to an out-of-time summons, is in my view an abuse of law pure and simple”, reacted Me Sur.
Lebanon does not extradite its nationals, but it applies foreign court decisions concerning them.
Mr. Salamé, 72, refutes the accusations that he has built up a rich real estate and banking heritage in Europe through a complex financial arrangement and massive embezzlement of Lebanese public funds.
Since the beginning of the year, European judges, including the French judge, have traveled to Lebanon three times to question him and his relatives.
At least two indictments were pronounced in the French investigation: Anna K., a relative of Mr. Salamé, suspected of being one of his nominees in France; and Marwan Kheireddine, ex-minister and current boss of the private bank al-Mawarid.
In March 2022, France, Germany and Luxembourg froze 120 million euros in Lebanese assets suspected of belonging to the governor of the BDL.
The Paris Court of Appeal is due to examine on May 23 the validity of the seizures made by France.
“This broad evasion is commensurate with his cynicism and his refusal to assume any responsibility (…) One day or another, Mr. Salamé will be arrested,” said William Bourdon, lawyer for the Sherpa association. and the Collective of victims of fraudulent and criminal practices in Lebanon, civil parties.