Lebanon’s designate prime minister Najib Mikati, who in December defended Central Bank governor Riad Salameh by saying “one does not change their officers during a war,” has since said he does not mind Salameh being replaced
Beirut – Lebanon’s designate prime minister Najib Mikati has floated the possibility of appointing a new central bank governor, after police raided the Bank of Lebanon. On July 19 members of one branch of Lebanon’s security forces raided the residence of governor Riad Salameh to execute a judge’s subpoena but could not. find him . Accompanied by investigating judge Ghada Aoun they then headed to the central bank in search of the governor , but again failed to find him.
Salameh’s whereabouts have become a topic of speculation among reporters based in Lebanon. Shortly after the raid,. Mikati said on Tuesday a political agreement on a new central bank governor was required before an investigation into current governor could progress.
Mikati denounced as inappropriate the raid because the bank dealt with issues related to monetary stability and it could lead to an “ominous shock”.
“Raiding the Central Bank in a theatrical manner is not the right way to address the problem,” Mikati who is known for defending Salameh said.
“What is required is that this file be dealt with via prior political agreement on a new governor of the Banque du Liban, and that the case take its appropriate legal course after that,” a statement from Mikati’s office said.
Mikati’s office did not respond to a request for comment on whether discussions on replacing the governor had taken place.
Salameh, the central bank governor since 1993, faces corruption probes in at least five European countries and in Lebanon, which has been plunged into a deep financial crisis that critics blame, in part, on his policies.
He has defended his actions and denied wrongdoing, saying the investigations are politically motivated and aim at scapegoating him for the Lebanon’s financial problems.
He still enjoys the support of some of Lebanon’s top politicians, including Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
Mikati, who in December defended Salameh by saying “one does not change their officers during a war,” has since said he does not mind Salameh being replaced.
The syndicate for central bank employees announced a three-day strike from Wednesday in protest against the raid, saying in a statement the move “affected the dignity of the Banque du Liban and its employees”.
It called on the government and judicial authorities to “intervene to put an end to these inappropriate behaviours by Judge Ghada Aoun, which deviate from all legal principles” and warned of an open-ended strike if the matter was not addressed.
Aoun said her actions “were entirely within my powers”.
Aoun charged Salameh in March with illicit enrichment related to a case involving the purchase of Paris apartments by him and his close associates that were subsequently rented to the central bank Salameh heads.
A central bank spokesperson told Reuters he had received conflicting information on whether Salameh was at the central bank at the time of the raid and could not confirm whether he was there or not.
Reuters/ News Agencies