Financial Action Task Force (FATF): Lebanon no longer under surveillance

22 February 2016

BEIRUT: In a move expected to relieve the market, the financial watchdog Financial Action Task Force announced that Lebanon has fully complied with all requirements to combat money-laundering and terrorism financing. The announcement was made by Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh Sunday following FATF plenary meeting held from Feb. 15-19 in Paris.

Salameh declared that this international standard-setting body against money laundering and terrorist financing has issued a final statement in which it asserts that Lebanon complies with all the legal and implementation requirements in terms of fighting money laundering, terrorist financing and weapons of mass destruction, and that it will not be submitted to any surveillance or follow-up.

According to Salameh the FATF statement, issued by its 199 member States, is a reassuring factor for Lebanon’s international banking and financial dealings, and for Lebanese banks’ customers, particularly the Lebanese diaspora, as it facilitates their incoming and outgoing transfers to and from Lebanon.

 “This positive development results from the adoption of the required laws by the Lebanese Parliament and government in October 2015, and from the circulars issued by the Central Bank. As such, Lebanon shall stay integrated in the financial globalization, which positively impacts the economic situation,” the statement said.

 It added that the Special Investigation Commission, as well as its secretary and his assistants, attend the FATF meetings and have good relations with the Egmont Group, and thus contribute to promote Lebanon’s willingness to respect and implement the highest standards that guarantee transparency within the financial sector. The statement said that FATF, which has adopted recommendations on combating money laundering, terrorist financing and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, has placed 22 jurisdictions under surveillance in October 2015. 

“However, following the plenary of February 2016, only 15 jurisdictions remain under surveillance, of which some [are] G-20 member-states. Accordingly, the FATF has lifted its surveillance off seven jurisdictions, including Lebanon,” it added.

FATF announcement is expected to relief the market and the banking sector in particular after it came under tremendous pressure from the United States government which has tightened its noose on the finances of Hezbollah, viewed by Washington as a terrorist organization. U.S. action has caused wide debate among politicians and financial experts who all agreed that Lebanon has no choice but to abide by the new measure although the banks have been prudent in freezing the account of any person or group blacklisted by the Americans and Europeans. However, some lawmakers and political parties have insisted that the salaries of Hezbollah MPs and ministers should not be frozen or rejected by the Lebanese banks.

A high-ranking parliamentary delegation is expected to visit Washington soon in a bid to discuss the ramification of the U.S. move on Lebanon and its economy. Sources said that the MPs will try to find out if the U.S. measure also applies on the salaries of Hezbollah MPs and ministers. The President of Association of Banks in Lebanon Joseph Torbey assured during a news conference Thursday that banks are keen to comply with all international resolutions pertaining to the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing. He also repeated that there is no threat to Lebanon’s banking secrecy, noting that banking secrecy will only be lifted on illicit deposits and accounts of suspected people involved in money laundering and terrorism financing.


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