Lebanese Group Says Campaign against Lebanese Banks Merely Allegationsإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The American Task Force for Lebanon lashed out at New York-based United against Nuclear Iran (UANI) for accusing the Lebanese banking sector of laundering money for the benefit of Iran, Syria and Hizbullah, describing them as false accusations.
The ATFL argues that the campaign launched by UANI encouraged private-equity firms to unload their Lebanese holdings, As Safir newspaper reported on Friday.
UANI also pushed for the Treasury to designate Lebanon's financial system as a "money-laundering concern" under a statute of the Patriot Act. Such an action could eventually bar Lebanese financial institutions from participating in the U.S. financial system.
The ATFL said that the evidence presented in UANI’s report is “packed with false allegations and ideas.”
The targeting of Lebanon's banking system is just the latest effort in a broader campaign against Iran and its allies by UANI, a group formed in 2008 by former U.S. and international security and foreign-policy officials.
The pressure group argues that despite Lebanon’s devastated economy, its currency and banking system operate as if they belong to a more successful state.
“We understand that the increase in deposits occurred after the financial crisis in 2008 but at that time the Lebanese expats returned their money to their nation as a result of lack of confidence with the Gulf, European and American banks,” ATFL said in a letter that was handed over to National Security Advisor Tony Blinken.
The group said that there are over 68 banks in Lebanon, however, two money laundry cases linked to Hizbullah were found.
The Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB) merged with Societe Generale after accusations by the U.S. Treasury of involvement in money laundering and connection to a terrorist group.
Founding Chairman of ATFL Peter Tanous told As Safir that the letter was handed over to Blinken on July 23 during a meeting at the White House with several Arab and American groups.
“The campaign against the whole Lebanese banking system is unjustified and harms a friend country,” Tanous said, noting that the “U.S. doesn’t condemn an entire banking sector if one bank or an individual breached the fiscal policies or the important demands set by the U.S.”
Sources told the daily that Blinken stressed during the meeting that the U.S. authorities are tracking down “specific violations” and not the entire Lebanese banking system.