Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh. (Photo credit: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
Riad Salameh, the governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank is reportedly on the run after he failed to show up for a court hearing on 15 February.
Local media outlets said that when Salameh did not appear at the hearing, a judge ordered the country’s internal security forces to bring him to court.
The internal security forces unsuccessfully carried out an operation to arrest Salameh but they could not locate him at any of the three properties they raided, including two of his homes and his office at the Central Bank.
According to local reports, there was a near fracas between the general security forces who provide security to the governor, and the internal security forces, when the former attempted to prevent the latter from entering the Central Bank premises to search for the governor.
On 1 February, Lebanese Judge Ghada Aoun issued a subpoena ordering Salameh to appear for questioning as a witness regarding alleged misconduct at the central bank.
The decision by the judge to issue the subpoena came after Salameh failed to show up for questioning on three occasions. Judge Aoun on 15 February extended the subpoena indefinitely.
Salameh, who has presided over the Lebanese Central Bank for nearly three decades, is accused of mismanagement and fraud at the institution.
He has denied the allegations and claims that they are politically motivated. However, many stakeholders insist that his conduct at the Central Bank has contributed to the acute economic crisis the country has plunged into since 2019.
The crisis has seen the Lebanese lira depreciate by over 90 percent in the last 24 months, significantly eroding the value of salaries and pensions, and making it difficult for most citizens to afford essential goods.
Salameh is also facing money laundering and embezzlement investigations in several European countries, including Switzerland, France and Luxembourg.