Banque Du Liban: We need more transparency, not less

Lebanon central bank seeks names of those who failed to repatriate funds amid crisis. Photo via Reuters

Lebanon’s central bank has asked commercial banks to provide the names of political figures who failed to comply with a circular ordering them to repatriate funds sent abroad in the lead-up to the country’s 2019 financial meltdown.

Lebanon’s financial crisis, which the World Bank has labelled one of the deepest depressions of modern history, has been compounded by political deadlock and a row over the probe into the 2020 Beirut port blast that killed more than 200 people.

The central bank, known as the Banque du Liban (BDL), said banks must provide its Special Investigation Commission with the names by the end of March, adding that “cash deposits made between July 2017 and end-December 2020 are concerned as well, if the beneficiary is” a politically exposed person.

Last week, a US Treasury delegation urged Lebanon to investigate what it described as “abuses” within the banking system by members of the political and economic elite.

Allegations of financial misconduct have been widespread following the financial collapse, when banks imposed tight controls on hard currency accounts for most savers but critics say some people with influence were able to access funds more freely.

Banks have denied claims of favoritism toward certain clients, and say they have consistently called on the government to introduce a capital control law to regulate the sector — something the government has failed to do.

Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh faces corruption probes in a number of European countries and in Lebanon, where officials are investigating alleged money laundering and embezzlement of central bank funds. He has denied wrongdoing.

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