Lebanese successfully lobby for changes to US law against terror-funding

Published January 25th, 2016 - 06:08 GMT

Lebanese banks succeeded in amending the first draft of the U.S. Congress act against Hezbollah to protect the country and the local lenders, the chairman of BLOM said.

“I visited the United States as part of a delegation from the Association of Banks to Lebanon to keep the American side abreast of the banking measures to combat money laundering and terrorism funding. We managed to persuade some congressional leaders to make the necessary amendments to the first draft of the action against Hezbollah’s finances,” Saad Azhari told reporters during a luncheon in honor of the Lebanese news media.

Sources said the first draft of the law was more severe for Lebanon, as was the second draft, down to the third draft, which was approved after the success of “Lebanese lobby” in introducing of a set of amendments to protect Lebanon, and keep the Central Bank neutral.

The sources added that the US draft law shifted from an ad hoc law for Lebanon and Hezbollah, to a general law that defines the penalties for dealing with Hezbollah financially in the entire world.

“Lebanon has succeeded in passing these amendments through many friends of Lebanon, and American politicians of Lebanese descent, all of whom worked hand in hand to help in this file,” they said.

Azhari stressed that it is in Lebanon’s best interests to fully comply with international resolutions and U.S. measures to combat money-laundering and terrorism funding.

He added that the American side had expressed satisfaction with the Central Bank and Lebanese banks’ efforts to combat money laundering.

A high-ranking delegation from the association of banks headed by its President Joseph Torbey traveled to the United States Friday to brief the Americans on the steps adopted by the lenders to comply with international resolutions.

Azhari denied allegations that the United States was applying pressure on Lebanese banks.

The chairman also shed light on the results of BLOM in the first nine months of 2015.

He added that BLOM’s consolidated assets until the end of September 2015 reached $29 billion, an increase of 5.2 percent compared to the same period of 2014.

BLOM’s profits in the first nine months of 2015 increased by 7.6 percent to reach $290 million.

“Our capital adequacy ratio based on Basel III criteria reached 17.8 percent the provisions for non-performing loans exceeded 160 percent,” Azhari said.

The number of borrowers in the retail business jumped from some 30,000 clients to 159,000 over the past 10 years.

BLOM’s housing loans have increased from $86 million 10 years ago to more than $1.5 billion.

Small- and medium-size loans to companies have increased from $258 million to $982 million.


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