Former Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, Riad Salameh, disappeared before a scheduled session on August 29, according to Lebanese media reports on Thursday. This has fueled speculation that he may have fled the country.
This isn’t the first time Salameh has gone missing, leaving authorities unable to determine his residence to formally serve him a summons for the investigative session before the judicial body. The session had been postponed previously due to this procedural loophole justifying his absence.
These revelations have raised the possibility that the former governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, who holds both Lebanese and French nationality and is subject to both local and international pursuit in cases related to embezzlement and money laundering, may have left Lebanon. However, this scenario is unlikely considering that the Lebanese and French passports, as well as the diplomatic one, have been confiscated by Lebanese authorities.
The local site “Al-Kataeb Online” confirmed that Salameh is still in Lebanon, but disappeared five days before a scheduled investigation session. He was not found at his officially declared places of residence.
It is speculated that his disappearance is a tactical move to avoid appearing before the prosecutorial body on the grounds that he was not officially notified of his summons for the scheduled session before the end of the current month. The Lebanese state recently suspended the decision to leave him free.
If he fails to attend the upcoming session, “the prosecutorial body can then issue an absentia arrest warrant, and at that point, he becomes a fugitive from justice,” according to Lebanese media reports.
The newspaper “Nidaa Al-Watan” quoted the head of the Judicial Affairs Authority in the Lebanese Ministry of Justice, Judge Helana Eskandar, as saying that security forces can determine Riad Salameh’s place of residence by tracking his phone technologically.
She added, “What is required at the moment is to inform him of the date of the session by affixing it to his places of residence, and if a detention order is issued against him, then it is possible to locate him technologically through his phone.”
Salameh’s disappearance has fueled the possibility that he may have fled abroad, even though his three passports (Lebanese, French, and diplomatic) have been seized.
Hassan Yaacoub, the head of the “Al-Nahj” party and former deputy, indicated that this disappearance raises question marks, wondering why it has been difficult to notify him of the investigation session date. He said that this means he “escaped the country.”
Last Sunday, the British newspaper “Financial Times” reported that Salameh sent a “flash drive” abroad containing secrets of his work “in case something bad happens to him.”
One of the senior politicians stated that “the arrangement suits Lebanese politicians well: as long as he stays here, he won’t shout about their secrets, and everyone remains content.” The source added that it is widely assumed that Salameh will stay in Lebanon to avoid arrest and questions abroad.
Salameh, the former governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, is the subject of judicial investigations in Lebanon and seven European countries, all of which are looking into allegations of large-scale embezzlement of public funds in Lebanon. Meanwhile, Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic crisis in recent history.