Lebanese Banks Establish Pressure Group to Confront Unwavering Foreign Campaigns

The Lebanese banking sector formed a pressure group in cooperation with the Central Bank of Lebanon to defend and explain its work mechanism to stop illicit financial activities, in case a foreign campaign was held against it, especially concerning the funding of Hizbullah.

The decision came in light of a renewed move by U.S. lawmakers to introduce a new draft-law that would “target Hizbullah's fundraising activities.”

As Safir newspaper reported on Friday that the Lebanese banking sector is seeking to comfort the U.S. administration regarding the measures taken to uproot money laundering, terrorist transactions and other illegal activities.

Central Bank sources told the newspaper that the U.S. Department of the Treasury expressed relief over the measures implemented by the Lebanese banking sector to avert “future risks.”

A U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee is seeking to “use all the diplomatic, legislative and executive authorities to ban Hizullah's criminal activities,” the report noted.

The bill's draft summary would allow the U.S. Treasury Department to "target central banks and other financial institutions, primarily in Lebanon and Europe, that knowingly engage with Hizbullah and its enablers."

It also targets Hizbullah's al-Manar television by requiring the U.S. administration to list and penalize any satellite provider that still broadcasts the television channel.

Sources voiced concern that the bill would target the Lebanese banking sector, thus, having a negative impact on the country's economy.

The bill, if passed, requires President Barack Obama to determine whether Hizbullah “meets the criteria of a transnational criminal organization.”

The law's draft summary notes that it is American policy "to prevent Hizbullah's global logistics and financial network from operating in order to curtail its domestic and international activities.”

But the head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, Francois Bassil, told LBCI that Lebanese banks are implementing all measures aimed at combating money laundering and funding terror.

A delegation from the ABL visits the U.S. every six months to brief officials on the role of Lebanese banks against money laundering, he said.

The Central Bank and banks do not face any danger over the Congress' draft-law against Hizbullah, he added.

In 2013, Obama renewed a “national emergency” which imposes a freeze on assets of people linked to Hizbullah, stressing that they still “undermine Lebanon's stability.”

The U.S. considers Hizbullah a terror group and accuses Syria and Iran of arming it.

In August 2007, President George W. Bush ordered a freeze on U.S. assets of anyone Washington deems to be undermining the Lebanese government.



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