Germany Cancels Arrest Warrant for Lebanon’s Ex-central Bank Chief

Longtime chief of Lebanon's Central Bank Riad Salameh, poses as he leaves office after a 30-year tenure, at Lebanon's Central Bank building in Beirut, Lebanon July 31, 2023. (Reuters)
Longtime chief of Lebanon's Central Bank Riad Salameh, poses as he leaves office after a 30-year tenure, at Lebanon's Central Bank building in Beirut, Lebanon July 31, 2023. (Reuters)
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Germany Cancels Arrest Warrant for Lebanon’s Ex-central Bank Chief

Longtime chief of Lebanon's Central Bank Riad Salameh, poses as he leaves office after a 30-year tenure, at Lebanon's Central Bank building in Beirut, Lebanon July 31, 2023. (Reuters)
Longtime chief of Lebanon's Central Bank Riad Salameh, poses as he leaves office after a 30-year tenure, at Lebanon's Central Bank building in Beirut, Lebanon July 31, 2023. (Reuters)

German authorities have cancelled their arrest warrant for Lebanon's former central bank chief for technical reasons, but are continuing their probe and keeping his assets frozen, the Munich prosecutor's office told Reuters on Wednesday.

Riad Salameh, 73, was Lebanon's central bank governor for 30 years until July 2023. In his final months as governor, Germany issued an arrest warrant for him on corruption charges, two sources in Lebanon told Reuters.

Responding to questions from Reuters, a spokeswoman for the Munich prosecutor's office confirmed on Wednesday that the arrest warrant was cancelled on June 10.

The spokeswoman said the cancellation had come after an appeal from the defendant, and because he no longer held the position of central bank chief - meaning there was "no longer any risk that he will suppress evidence in this function."

She said the regional court of Munich had "confirmed the urgent suspicion with regard to the offences charged against the defendant" and that Germany's "investigations are ongoing".

Salameh declined a Reuters request for comment on the development.

Salameh and his brother Raja are being investigated in Lebanon and at least five European countries for allegedly taking hundreds of millions of dollars from Lebanon's central bank and laundering the funds abroad. They deny the accusations.

Germany confirmed in February that it was conducting money laundering investigations into Salameh and his brother, and had issued an arrest warrant.

The Munich public prosecutor's office said in February it had also seized three commercial properties in Munich and Hamburg with a total value of around 28 million euros, and shares worth around seven million euros in a Duesseldorf-based property company, as part of the case.

On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the public prosecutor's office said it had "dismissed as unfounded" an appeal against the seizure order, which it said dated back to Jan. 26, 2023.

Lebanese judge Helene Iskandar, who has charged Salameh in a separate case in Lebanon and has been following up on the foreign probes into him, confirmed on Wednesday that the warrant had been cancelled but that Germany's investigation into Salameh would remain open.

Salameh still faces an arrest warrant in France as part of its own investigation into whether he embezzled public funds, as well as a resultant Interpol red notice.



Israel Strikes Gaza, Yemen, Lebanon Foes after Attacks

Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
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Israel Strikes Gaza, Yemen, Lebanon Foes after Attacks

Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)

The Middle East was reeling Sunday from deadly violence with Israel bombing Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen in quick succession in response to attacks from Iran-backed militant groups.
Despite Washington's top diplomat asserting a deal is near the "goal line" to end more than nine months of devastating war between Israel and Gaza rulers Hamas, the Israeli military said it intercepted a missile fired from Yemen, as it pressed on with its offensive in the besieged Palestinian territory, Agence France Presse reported.
Dozens have been killed since Saturday across the Gaza Strip, the civil defense agency said, including in strikes on homes in the central Nuseirat and Bureij areas and displaced people near southern Khan Yunis.
Residents said a major operation was underway in the district of Rafah in the south, reporting heavy artillery and clashes.
The deadly strikes in Gaza came hours after Hezbollah and its ally Hamas said they fired at Israeli positions from south Lebanon, while Yemen's Houthi group vowed to respond to Israeli warplanes hitting a key port.
The fire left raging by the strikes on Hodeida port "is seen across the Middle East and the significance is clear," Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.
Detailing the first strikes claimed by Israel in Yemen, Gallant warned of further operations if the Houthis "dare to attack us" after a Houthi drone strike killed one in Tel Aviv on Friday.
In Hodeida three people were killed and 87 wounded, health officials said in a statement carried by Houthi media.
Netanyahu travels to Washington
The trio of militant groups has vowed to keep up attacks on Israel until a truce ends the violence in Gaza, which lies in ruins, with most residents forced to flee their homes.
The Gaza war was triggered by Hamas's October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza, including 42 the Israeli military says are dead.
Israel's military retaliation to wipe out Hamas has killed at least 38,919 people, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
The war has also unleashed hunger and health crises in Gaza, with Israel and the United Nations trading blame for vital aid supplies failing to reach those in need.
After the detection of poliovirus in Gaza sewage, though no individual cases, the World Health Organization said there were "monumental" constraints to mounting a timely response.
WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said Friday the agency believes many more diseases are "spreading out of control" inside Gaza.
The premier is due to address US lawmakers Wednesday in Washington, where he will be under pressure to reach a ceasefire with Hamas.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday a truce was within reach.
"I believe we're... driving toward the goal line in getting an agreement that would produce a ceasefire, get the hostages home, and put us on a better track to trying to build lasting peace and stability," he said.