Report: Lebanon’s Subsidized Diesel Oil, Flour Smuggled to Syria

Smuggling operations through illegal crossings to neighboring Syria continue to run diesel oil and flour from Lebanon to Syria-- two substances subsidized by the Lebanese state beside medicines-- which will further deplete the state’s ability to provide basic commodities to the local market, Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported on Saturday.

Smuggled diesel oil to Syria is estimated at 400 million dollars annually, according to the daily.

Officials took a move after a televised report broadcast on MTV station this week saying Lebanon’s subsidized wheat and diesel oil were being smuggled to Syria, and illegal crossings were crowding with convoys and trucks crossing the two sides of the border.

“This report clearly shows the negative impact those illegal crossings have on Lebanon’s finances in general,” Samir Geagea, the head of the Lebanese Forces party said.

“This is a notice to related judicial authorities, the public prosecution, ministers of finance, energy and economy. They must take action to save losses worth hundreds of millions of dollars supposed for the treasury and Lebanese citizens,” he added.

In compliance with the decision to support basic commodities, the Central Bank of Lebanon provides 85% of the cash needed by the Lebanese market to import diesel and flour, in light of a monetary crisis and shortage of hard currency.

But gas stations are having a shortage of oil derivatives, due to “smuggling at least two million liters of subsidized material daily to Syria via Hermel and the Bekaa border,” according to the Central News Agency.

The price of 20 liters of diesel oil in Lebanon is LBP9,100 ($6), while in Syria it equals LBP22,000 ($15 dollars according to the official exchange rate).

Democratic Gathering bloc MP Hadi el-Hassan of the Progressive Socialist Party’s said: “While the central bank holds on to dollars restricting them for citizens in order to buy basic materials like wheat, oil and medicines, we see smuggling gangs draining us by smuggling flour and diesel across the loose borders in both directions."

“We have always demanded an end for smuggling through illegal crossings protected by illegal weapons," said al-Mustaqabl MP Mohammed Hajjar said in a tweet.

"It's inflicting annual losses in billions of dollars, and stealing the reserves of the Central Bank," added Hajjar.

Source: Naharnet

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