The Financial Times quoted a former senior Lebanese financial official as saying that Lebanese banks have "smuggled" nearly six billion dollars since October, despite the withholding of transfers abroad as the country entered into a financial crisis.
Banks imposed tight restrictions from late 2019 after a financial meltdown caused a tightening of the dollar, pushing prices higher and fueling the turmoil. Banks have come under criticism for freezing people's savings after using their deposits to finance the heavily indebted country.
Alan Biffany, who resigned as director general of the Lebanese Finance Ministry two weeks ago, told the Financial Times that between $ 5.5 billion and $ 6 billion had been "smuggled out of the country" by "bankers (not allowing) the depositor to withdraw $ 100". He added that this evaluation is based on his understanding of the banking sector data and consultations with the Banking Supervision Authority.
No comment has been made yet from the Association of Banks in Lebanon or the Ministry of Finance. The President of the Assembly has previously said that the restrictions imposed are aimed at preserving Lebanon's wealth.
Biffany, who held his senior position in the ministry for 20 years, was the second member to resign from the Lebanese negotiating team with the IMF. Biffany held private interests responsible for undermining the government's economic rescue plan, without giving names.
In the interview, he accused politicians and bankers of trying to "benefit from the system without incurring the slightest loss" while making the Lebanese pay the price of the collapse.
The IMF talks, which started in May due to a dispute between the government and the central bank, stumbled over the size of the losses in the financial system and how to distribute them.
(Press coverage from Beirut office - Prepared by Mohamed Farag for the Arabic Bulletin - Edited by Ahmed Elhamy)