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Is the Lebanese banking sector paying the price of US sanctions?

2019-08-30T22:23:10.473Z



Waseem Al-Zuhairi-Beirut

The decision of the US Treasury to impose sanctions on a Lebanese bank came as no surprise as the decision circles in Washington against the Lebanese Hezbollah increased.

Beyond the economic and financial ramifications, the new US action was a clear political sign of the administration's continued pressure on Hezbollah in the context of an open war in the region with Tehran and its allies.

In a new development, the US Treasury has listed Jamal Trust and its insurance companies on terrorism charges, accusing it of providing financial services to Hezbollah and violating money laundering laws.

The management of Jamal Trust did not delay its response as it categorically denied the allegations on which the decision was based, confirming strict adherence to the rules and regulations of the Banque du Liban and the international regulations related to combating money laundering and terrorist financing.

The Bank's management indicated that it would take all appropriate steps to clarify the truth and would appeal to the competent authorities.

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Limited effect
In turn, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil stressed the ability of the banking sector in Lebanon to absorb the repercussions of the US decision against the bank "Jamal Trust" and to ensure the funds of depositors and rights holders, stressing that the central bank is required, as he put it.

The American move prompted the question of the expected repercussions on the financial and banking sectors, especially in light of the difficult economic conditions in Lebanon.

While the Association of Lebanese Banks stressed that the US action will not affect the banking sector, economist Ghazi Wazni said that the consequences of this step are very limited for several reasons, most importantly that the size of the bank concerned is very small, with deposits represent less than 0.4% of the total deposits in Lebanon.

Wazani told Al Jazeera Net that the bank "Jamal Trust" does not have direct relations with banks in the United States, and therefore its external operations pass through Lebanese banks.

Positive messages
He pointed to what he called positive messages sent by the US Treasury to Lebanon despite its recent decision, confirming its continued cooperation with the Central Bank of Lebanon to combat the financing of terrorism and money laundering.

Regarding measures to be taken in Lebanon to avoid any repercussions of the US decision, Wazani said that the Central Bank will preserve the rights and funds of depositors in the Jamal Trust Bank, pointing out that these funds and rights will be transferred to other banks after the completion of financial audits.

He explained that the Central Bank had previously taken measures to protect the banking sector based on laws related to the fight against terrorism and money laundering, especially the US. Banks have also taken their own actions in the same context.

US administration for years to dry up sources of funding Hezbollah (Al Jazeera)

Increased pressure
The new US action coincided with tensions between Lebanon and Israel following the fall of two Israeli reconnaissance planes a few days ago in the southern suburbs of Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold and a pledge of a military response, while Tel Aviv accused Hezbollah and Iran of planning to set up missile factories in Lebanon.

According to political analyst Waseem Bazzi, there is a return to increase financial and political pressure on Lebanon linked to the economic crisis on the one hand, and what is happening on the border between Lebanon and Israel on the other.

Wasim told Al Jazeera Net that the US action against the bank "Jamal Trust" incitement of the Lebanese people to Hezbollah, expecting more similar measures.

It is noteworthy that the US Treasury imposed sanctions on the Lebanese Canadian Bank in 2011 on charges of using its accounts by persons active in the drug and arms trade for the benefit of Hezbollah, in addition to money laundering, which led to the closure of the bank and merged with another Lebanese bank according to an acquisition plan organized by the Central Bank Lebanese.

Nearly two years later, the New York court issued a decision agreeing to pay the Lebanese Canadian Bank $ 102 million to the US government in exchange for its blacklisting.

Source: aljazeera

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