Naharnet

Central Bank Governor Denies Money Smuggling from Syria

Central Bank governor Riyad Salameh has denied that Syrian nationals were smuggling money to Lebanon, rejecting claims about money laundering in Lebanese banks.

In remarks to MTV on Saturday night, Salameh said: “There is no money smuggling from Syria to Lebanon.”

“All what is being said about money laundering in the Lebanese banking (sector) is also not true,” he stressed.

His comments came against the backdrop of a report by The Wall Street Journal that said Washington is intensifying its scrutiny of Lebanon's financial system over concerns that Syria, Iran and Hizbullah are using Lebanese banks to evade international sanctions and fund their activities.

The Treasury Department and Drug Enforcement Administration are continuing an aggressive probe into an alleged Hizbullah-linked money-laundering operation, the Journal quoted U.S. officials as saying.

Senior U.S. officials told the Journal that the Treasury is also pressing Lebanese financial regulators to more closely monitor local banks that have operations in Syria and Iran.

But Salameh stressed to the Journal that deposits by Syrian nationals in Lebanese banks as well as loans to Syrians by these banks have decreased by 40 percent over the past 15 months.


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