Lebanon Moves to Smoke Out Drug Money
The head of Lebanon’s Banking Control Commission on Monday issued a stern warning to any bank that launders money from the re-emerging hashish trade, reported the Daily Star newspaper.
"Any employee in any branch of a bank in Lebanon has become legally responsible if he accepts any transaction that is related to the sale of illicit substances," Walid Alameddine told the opening session of a 10-day course on banking supervision.
Alameddine, said the paper, was alluding to the resurgent drug-trafficking industry in the Bekaa Valley, which has heightened tensions between the government and angry farmers.
"We have heard that illicit substances are being cultivated in Lebanon. We are keen to prevent drug-trafficking from damaging the reputation of our banks," Alameddine said, stressing that banks have been given clear instructions on how to deal with any suspicious transaction.
He reminded attendants at the conference that monetary authorities still consider money laundering an illegal act.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), part of the G-7 countries, last month kept Lebanon's name on the list of countries not cooperating to combat dirty money.
But the panel said it was satisfied with new legislation to combat money laundering.
It also said that Lebanon made significant headway in combating the problem.
Parliament has passed a law to fight money laundering. A special committee will be set up to examine complaints of dirty money activity. But the FATF wants to give Lebanon more time to implement the law before it removes its name from the list.
People convicted of money laundering will receive a prison sentence plus a large fine.
"The Central Bank and the Banking Control Commission are making sure that our banks remain immune to money laundering," Alameddine said.
Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh agreed that Lebanon had made great progress in fighting money laundering, said the paper.
"We are very serious about implementing the law for the sake of Lebanon and banking secrecy," Salameh said.
He added that the Central Bank would not accept the use of banking secrecy rules as a cover for money laundering.
Salameh said it was important to protect banks from losses not only from traditional operations, but also from their investments and other operating expenses – Albawaba.com
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