US concerned about ‘abuse’ of Lebanese banking system, launch polls | Investment News

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A U.S. Treasury delegation has urged Lebanese authorities to open investigations into what it described as abuses within Lebanon’s banking system by members of the political and economic elite, the government said on Wednesday. US Treasury.

The unusually candid statement released after a three-day visit to Beirut by a high-level delegation did not specify which members of the elite it was referring to in a country plagued by corruption and abuse of power have long been commonplace.

Allegations of elite financial misconduct rose after the country’s financial meltdown in 2019, when banks imposed strict controls on hard currency accounts for most savers, but critics say some influential people may have freer access to funds. The banks have denied allegations of favoritism towards certain customers.

The delegation “stressed the need for serious efforts to investigate these abuses, in particular by the Banque du Liban and the Special Commission of Inquiry”, the statement said, referring to the central bank and a unit of investigation set up to investigate illicit financial activities.

“They lobbied for the relevant authorities to investigate and carry out due diligence on all related transactions,” he said.

The Association of Banks of Lebanon (ABL) said in a statement that it was committed to contributing to the fight against corruption, which the statement said had been the subject of a meeting between the head of the ‘ABL Salim Sfeir and the Treasury delegation on Wednesday.

Sfeir told the delegation that banks “continue to do their best, under the current circumstances, to exercise adequate due diligence to control the flow of funds through the system and to apply the required compliance standards,” the report said. communicated.

The United States is Lebanon’s largest donor, providing more than $370 million in humanitarian aid to Lebanon in 2021 alone, according to the website of US government development agency USAID.

The Treasury urged the government to adopt a financial recovery plan that “maximizes returns for Lebanese depositors, especially those with relatively small accounts”.

(Reporting by Tom Perry and Timour Azhari; editing by John Stonestreet, William Maclean and Bernard Orr)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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