Hezbollah leader calls on Lebanon’s central bank governor to step down amid growing legal troubles
BEIRUT — The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group on Friday called on the country’s central bank governor to step down amid growing legal troubles.
The governor, Riad Salameh, should either resign or be removed from office, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Iran-backed Hezbollah, said in a televised speech commemorating Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.
On Wednesday, Salameh was questioned by a Lebanese judge and his Lebanese and French passports were confiscated, following an arrest warrant from France for corruption. He has dual nationality.
The development effectively prevents Salameh from traveling abroad. Lebanon does not extradite its citizens to foreign countries or international tribunals.
“In Hezbollah, we think there are two options. The first is for the governor to resign voluntarily,” Nasrallah said. The second, he said, is for the judiciary to take legal action against Salameh and relieve him of his post.
Nasrallah’s remarks were the first time he called for Salameh’s resignation. A number of government officials made similar calls, but a Cabinet meeting on Monday failed to produce a formal decision.
France, Germany and Luxembourg are investigating Salameh and his associates over a myriad of alleged financial crimes, including the illicit enrichment and laundering of $330 million. A French investigating judge on May 16 issued an international arrest warrant, followed by an Interpol red notice, for Salameh, 72, after he failed to show up in Paris for questioning.
Once seen as the guardian of Lebanon’s financial stability, Salameh is now widely blamed for an economic meltdown that began in 2019. The Lebanese pound has since plummeted in value and wiped out much of the savings of ordinary Lebanese, plunging around three quarters of the population in poverty.
Salameh, who is also under investigation in Lebanon, has repeatedly denied all allegations of corruption, saying he was enriched by his years working as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch, properties inherited and investments. He said he would only resign if found guilty of a crime. He also said last week that he planned to appeal Interpol’s red notice.
Salameh has held the post for nearly 30 years, but says he intends to step down after his current term ends in July.