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Lebanon: Lebanese banks fully complying with anti-money laundering laws
Publicado el Mar 24, 2011

The Daily Star.- The head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) reassured the U.S. ambassador Wednesday that banks are fully committed to combating money laundering but warned that the continued media campaign against Lebanese banks could have a negative effect on this sector.

“I think you agree with us that any unjust rumors, falsely attributed to the U.S. Treasury, against our banking sector, will directly affect the reputation of Lebanese banks and their health, causing a real threat to the stability of the system, one which will be aggravated by the current domestic and regional conjuncture. The Lebanese banking community wishes to have an official clarification from your side as to the truth of this matter,” Joseph Torbey told U.S. ambassador Maura Connelly during a luncheon held in her honor by the association.

Connelly reiterated to the ABL members that the recent action taken by the U.S. Treasury to designate the Lebanese-Canadian Bank (LCB) as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern under Section 311 of the Patriot Act came as a result of a long-running criminal investigation.

She assured the ABL that action taken by the U.S. Treasury was not targeted against the Lebanese banking sector but was instead part of the Treasury’s global effort to protect the U.S. financial sector from illicit activities linked to international terrorism, narcotics trafficking and money laundering.

“The Treasury Department is working with the Lebanese Central Bank and other relevant Lebanese authorities to address the concerns brought up by the LCB case,” she said.

Despite the repeated assurances from the governor of the Central Bank, ABL and some U.S. officials that no other Lebanese banks will be targeted in the future, some Lebanese and foreign news media continue to claim that Washington intends to accuse other major banks of money laundering and connection to terrorist organizations.

“We stress that the [LCB] case is an isolated one in the Lebanese banking sector. We are not currently in a position to know exactly what happened, since the case is still under investigation by the relevant authorities. However, there has been a campaign, recently launched by local and foreign press, as well as some local politicians against the Lebanese banking sector, promoting the existence of another list of accused banks in the pipeline of the U.S. authorities,” Torbey said.

He added that Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh has assured that there are no such targets against Lebanese banks, adding that the banking sector is stringent in implementing international standards, domestic controls and suitable enforcement mechanisms.

“We are resolute on keeping our markets ‘clean’ and highly defensive against illicit cash,” he said.

Torbey emphasized that amid the financial and political turbulences shaking the region and the world today, ABL stresses that the banking sector is performing particularly well, and is showing an impressive resilience to the surrounding turmoil.

“A continuous dialogue and consultation between the regulator and the industry helped create a strong and stable banking sector in Lebanon, one which provides economic and social stability to the country, in times of constant challenges, and revolving national and international crisis,” the banker told Connelly.

Torbey added all banks in Lebanon are keen to fully comply with all procedures and regulations set by the Central Bank, noting that Lebanon has taken great steps against money laundering over the past few years.

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