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Lebanon receives word from Interpol for central bank governor who failed to show up for interrogation in Paris

Lebanon receives word from Interpol for central bank governor who failed to show up for interrogation in Paris

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon received an Interpol message on Friday for the embattled governor of the country’s central bank, who failed to show up for questioning in Paris earlier this week in a key corruption case, officials said.

France, Germany and Luxembourg are investigating the governor, Riad Salameh, and his associates for numerous financial crimes, including illicit enrichment and $330 million laundering. The French investigating judge said this on Tuesday issued an international arrest warrant for Salameh after he failed to respond to a summons for questioning in Paris.

However, it is unlikely that Lebanon will comply with the Interpol notification and arrest and hand over Salameh to French authorities. Under the laws of the country, Lebanon does not extradite its own citizens. In 2020, it received two red notices from Interpol for magnate Carlos Ghosn, who was accused of financial misconduct in Japan. Ghosn remains in Lebanon.

The Lebanese Interior Ministry acknowledged receipt of the Interpol Red Notice but did not comment on possible actions against Salameh, while a central bank spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The officials who spoke to The Associated Press about the report did so on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

Salameh denies corruption allegations and claims he amassed his wealth through his previous job as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch, inherited property and investments. He said he would only resign if he was convicted of a crime.

The 72-year-old governor has held office for nearly 30 years but says he plans to step down after his current term ends in July.

The three European governments have frozen more than $130 million in assets related to the investigation in March 2022. During a visit to Lebanon in March, the European delegation questioned Salameh about the assets and investments of the Lebanese central bank outside the country, an apartment in Paris – owned by the governor – and his brother Raja Salameh’s brokerage firm Forry Associates Ltd.

Once hailed as the guardian of Lebanon’s financial stability, Salameh has been blamed for Lebanon’s financial collapse since late 2019. Many say he has caused the economic crisis that has plunged three-quarters of Lebanon’s six million people into poverty.

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