Hezbollah chief calls on Lebanon’s central bank governor to resign amid legal crisis

BEIRUT — The head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist group on Friday called on the governor of the country’s central bank to resign amid legal concerns.

The governor, Riad Salameh, must 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 issued by France in cases of corruption. He is a dual citizen.

This development prevents Salameh from going abroad. Lebanon does not extradite its citizens to foreign countries or international courts.

“In Hezbollah, we believe there are two options. The first is for the governor to resign,” said Nasrallah. The second, he said, is for the judiciary to take action against Salameh and relieve him of his position.

Nasrallah’s comments were the first for Salameh to resign. Officials made a similar call but the Cabinet meeting on Monday did not come up with an official decision.

France, Germany and Luxembourg are investigating Salameh and his associates on a wide range of financial crimes, including illicit enrichment and a $330 million bet. A French investigative judge on May 16 issued an international arrest warrant, followed by an Interpol red notice, for the 72-year-old Salameh after he failed to appear in Paris for questioning.

Once seen as the guardian of Lebanon’s economic stability, Salameh is now widely blamed for the economic collapse that began in 2019. The Lebanese pound has fallen sharply and wiped out much of Lebanon’s savings, pushing nearly three-quarters of the population into poverty. .

Salameh, who is also under investigation in Lebanon, has repeatedly denied all charges of corruption, saying he amassed his wealth from his years working as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch, real estate, and investments. He said he would resign if found guilty. He said last week that he intends to appeal the Interpol red notice.

Salameh has been in office for almost 30 years, but says he plans to step down after his term expires in July.

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