French prosecutors have issued an international arrest warrant for Lebanon's Central Bank Governor, Riad Salameh, after he failed to appear at a court hearing amid a series of legal cases against him.
According to the news agency, Reuters, which cited anonymous sources close to the case, Salameh failed to show up at a hearing in the French capital, Paris, where an investigative magistrate was reportedly set to indict him over charges involving fraud and money laundering.
The 72-year-old Central Bank chief – who has held his position for three decades and is blamed by many for being the architect of Lebanon's current and ongoing economic crisis – is suspected by investigators of misusing public funds and amassing a network of assets across Europe through the use of fraudulent financial systems.
READ: France: Lebanon's politicians show no sign of saving their country
Pierre-Olivier Sur, Salameh's lawyer, told the news agency that the Bank chief did not show up to the summons because they were sent to him too close to the day of the hearing. The sources also told it that the French prosecutors decided to issue the international arrest warrant instead of simply issuing a fresh summons.
"By having notified the summons less than 10 days before the scheduled date of the interrogation, the rules were not respected", the lawyer said. "The summons is therefore null and void."
Insisting that the warrant is a legal violation and the decision was taken based on "double standards" and "presumptuous ideas", Salameh revealed that he intends to appeal it, with his defence attorneys and assistant having reportedly sent an objection to the Lebanese judiciary over the French case. That objection is based on the claim that France was attempting to try a case already under investigation in Lebanon.