Lebanese officials Thursday strongly contested their country's inclusion on recent lists of states allegedly facilitating money laundering, saying it was all a misunderstanding.
The lists were drawn up the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Financial Stability Forum grouping the Group of Seven industrial countries and four other states.
The first put Lebanon among 15 territories considered to be money laundering havens due to their failure to cooperate with efforts to curb such activities, and the second said it was one of 25 which were "generally seen as having a low quality of supervision and/or being non-cooperative with onshore supervisors, and with little or no attempt being made to adhere to international standards."
Riad Salame, the governor of Lebanon's central bank, said Beirut had taken measures to stop money-laundering several years ago and should be taken off the lists.
They had been compiled from wrong data, he said, as Lebanon had no offshore business sector.
Finance Minister Georges Corm told a press conference that he had contacted financial authorities in the United States and other countries to inform them about the Lebanese banking system.
Corm said there had been misunderstandings about offshore activities and Lebanon's classification as a tax haven. But he said Beirut had no intention of lifting banking secrecy.
"There is no case of money-laundering here, while in the United States they recently discovered a bank handling dirty money," he charged.
A vice-president of the central Bank of Lebanon, Marwan Nsuli, said Lebanon fulfilled "17 or 20" of the 25 criteria laid down by the FATF for being classed a as cooperative.
He said the law would be amended to make it impossible to set up offshore banks or other financial institutions in Lebanon - BEIRUT (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)