Some 70 percent of mobile phones in the Lebanese market  are smuggled into the country, officials said Tuesday, announcing that illegally imported devices would become unusable beginning June.
The crackdown will not affect phones that were smuggled before the measure comes in force in June.
Smuggling has deprived the Treasury of vital revenues and opened the door to counterfeit equipment, caretaker ministers Mohammad Safadi and Nicolas Sehnaoui said.
The two spoke at a news conference at the Metropolitan Hotel in Beirut’s suburb of Sin al-Fil.
Telecoms Minister Sehnaoui said the crackdown on smuggling would boost state revenues by $60 million a year.
The project, which was launched by the Cabinet in late 2012, will bar access to the touch and Alfa networks for smuggled phones and would only allow phones with International Mobile Equipment Identity numbers registered at the Customs department to access the network.
Tourists and visitors wishing to use devices purchased outside of Lebanon would need to register their handsets at the airport and would be allowed to use them for limited period of time.
The new measures will not affect legitimate importers and will not lead to a delay in customs, Sehnaoui said. He said the only measure legal importers needed to take is to register their phones’ IMEI at the customs department.
Director-General of the Customs Department Chafik Merhi said mobile phone smuggling had been thriving in Lebanon, adding that in many cases counterfeit devices are being smuggled and marketed as original handsets.
He said a common database between the department and the two mobile operators had been set up recently to register legally imported phones