BEIRUT: Lebanon lifted banking secrecy on 28 bank accounts in 2015 as part of efforts to combat money laundering, terrorism funding, fraud and financial embezzlement.
“Money Laundering/Terrorism Financing cases have become more complex. 432 cases were received, 101 from foreign sources and 331 from local sources. In 2015, 458 spontaneous disclosures were also handled many of which were ISIL (Daesh) related,” the Secretary-General of the Special Investigation Commission Abdul Hafiz Mansour said on the occasion of the release of SIC 2015 report.
But the report did not disclose the names of the individuals or groups whose bank accounts were frozen or their nationalities.
It also did not reveal the total amount of money that was frozen by the authorities.
In his message published by the SIC report, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said the Lebanese authorities took a series of measures to combat the terrorism financing and especially those related to Daesh and Foreign Terrorist Fighters.
“Throughout the year, Lebanese authorities, each in their own capacity, took measures to address the risks and threats emanating from this phenomena, including strengthening the domestic inter-agency coordination and expediting international cooperation requests on FTFs and the financing thereof,” Salameh said.
The report showed that out of the 432 cases SIC received in 2015, 335 were investigated.
It added that out of the 432 cases, 331 came from local sources and the remaining 101 came from foreign sources.
The SIC said there are still 97 cases pending and under investigation by the authorities in Lebanon.
It said at least 28 percent of the cases it investigated last year involved embezzlement of private funds, 9.2 percent involving forgery, 7.3 percent terrorism or terrorism funding, 5.4 percent corruption, 3.3 percent trade of narcotics, 1 percent organized crime and 45 percent unspecified.
The SIC gave some examples of the cases it investigated in 2015.
It said it received a request of assistance from the Lebanese General Prosecutor concerning several Lebanese nationals suspected of being affiliated with terrorist groups.
“The SIC initiated its investigation by circulating the names of the suspects to all banks and financial institutions operating in Lebanon to identify whether or not they had transactions or maintained accounts. Three banks reported having bank accounts for some of the suspects and a money remittance company provided information on several transactions,” the report said.
It added that SIC obtained the related bank records and the transactions from the money remittance company, and also carried out the needed analysis.
“The analysis revealed that the bank accounts were depleted by cash transactions and had minimal balances, whereas the money remittance transactions were received from abroad,” the report said.
Based on the information SIC collected and analyzed, the commission decided to lift banking secrecy off related bank accounts, freeze them and forwarded the findings to the General Prosecutor.
But the report did not disclose the names of the terrorist suspects or even the total amount of money that were frozen.