US concerned about ‘abuses’ of Lebanese banking system calls for investigations

BEIRU- 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 U.S. Treasury announced on Wednesday.

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 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)

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