Billion Dollars Smuggled Abroad… Lebanese Judiciary Pursues Smugglers

الحرك الشعبي اللبناني

Despite the stifling economic crisis in Lebanon, financial and economic corruption is still the master of the scene. While the Lebanese Banks Union has limited the withdrawn amounts for their customers due to the deteriorating economic situation in Lebanon, investigations revealed that more than ten Lebanese officials are involved in smuggling around one billion US dollars abroad, which led to announcing a package of strict sanctions on some Lebanese banks.

The Lebanese Prosecutor’s office is willing to freeze the assets of 20 banks in the country, judicial sources said Thursday. The sources added that the prosecutor’s office will also freeze properties owned by 20 bank presidents.

This comes against the background of accusing some Lebanese banking officials of transferring 2.3 billion dollars abroad within the past two months. Last Monday, Lebanese financial prosecutor Ali Ibrahim listened to statements of 15 bank officials regarding transferring more than one billion dollars outside the country despite the liquidity crisis and tight restrictions on the money movement in Lebanon.

Lebanon is experiencing the worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, threatening citizens’ jobs and lives, creating a severe liquidity crisis, leading to continuous rise in the prices of basic materials.

Investigations dealt with key issues that have preoccupied the public opinion recently and shaken the public confidence in the banking sector, Al Arabiya Net news outlet cited an unnamed source as saying.

The most prominent issue of which is the reason of transferring the considerable funds belonging to the bank owners abroad, which weakened the liquidity in the internal financial markets, and led to prohibition of withdrawing the customers’ money in US dollars and foreign currency, but this prohibition does not apply to the executors, the source added.

This happens as Lebanon is still searching for a solution for its political crisis that caused the most violent economic crisis since the civil war at the end of last century.

Lebanon authorities have recently issued a series of important resolutions on the banking sector, where the Cabinet approved a draft law to lift bank secrecy, and the Prosecutor decided to freeze the assets of 20 banks.

According to Reuters, Lebanese Justice Minister Mary Claude Najm said the banking secrecy law had already been approved.

In conjunction with that, the Finance Prosecutor, Judge Ali Ibrahim, decided to place a no-action sign on the assets of 20 Lebanese banks, and to report this to the General Directorate of Real Estate Affairs, the Commercial Registry Secretariat, the Transport and Machinery Administration and the Governor of the Bank of Lebanon, the Banking Association and the Financial markets Authority.

The no act decision included also the banks’ presidents and chairmen.

Lebanese judiciary has begun questioning the chairmen of Lebanese banks on the case of transferring money abroad since the start of the Lebanon uprising, October 17.

A few days ago, in a speech to the diplomatic sector in the capital Beirut, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, announced that Lebanon can no longer protect the Lebanese due to this state of weakness that may become impotence.

“We are facing major dilemmas today, while the state’s mechanisms are still shackled by rusty sectarian restrictions, tight corruption chains, imbalanced management, and lack of vision in institutions,” Diab added in his speech from the government headquarters.

“This government came knowing that its burden is heavy, and its mission is complicated, but we are determined to dismantle the complications; to move Lebanon to the concept of state, and solve chronic problems,” Lebanese Prime Minister continued.

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