Lebanon’s central bank seeks names of those who failed to repatriate funds amid crisis


A view of the Central Bank of Lebanon building in Beirut, Lebanon April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

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BEIRUT, March 9 (Reuters) – Lebanon’s central bank has asked commercial banks to provide the names of politicians who failed to comply with a circular ordering them to repatriate funds sent abroad amid the crisis country’s finances in 2019.

Lebanon’s financial crisis, which the World Bank has called one of the deepest depressions in modern history, has been compounded by a political stalemate and a dispute over the investigation into the Beirut port explosion in 2020 which killed more than 200 people.

The central bank, known as Banque du Liban (BDL), said banks must provide the names to its special commission of inquiry by the end of March, adding that “cash deposits made between July 2017 end of December 2020 are also concerned, if the beneficiary is “a politically exposed person”.

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Last week, a US Treasury delegation urged Lebanon to investigate what it described as “abuses” within the banking system by members of the political and economic elite. Read more

Allegations of financial misconduct became widespread in the wake of the financial meltdown, when banks imposed strict controls on hard currency accounts for most savers, but critics say some influential people were able to access more freely to funds.

The banks denied allegations of favoritism towards certain customers and said they had consistently called on the government to introduce a capital control law to regulate the sector, which the government failed to do.

Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh faces corruption probes in a number of European countries and in Lebanon, where officials are investigating allegations of money laundering and misappropriation of central bank funds . He denied wrongdoing.

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Reporting by Timour Azhari; Editing by Alison Williams and Nick Macfie

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