BEIRUT: Elias Murr, head of the Interpol Foundation for a Safer World, said Tuesday Interpol would coordinate closely with Lebanese banks to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
“Lebanon will be the first country in the world to sign the partnership agreement with Interpol to develop and fortify the banking sector. The program involves the exchange of information and training of staff,” Murr said in his speech at a lunch ceremony held in his honor by the Association of Banks in Lebanon.
Murr added that the program also called for the introduction of advanced technology and computer applications to update the list of individuals wanted for involvement in illegal activities.
Lebanese banks are working closely with U.S. and European financial institutions to ensure that no individual or group suspected of money laundering and terrorist activities does business with local lenders.
U.S. authorities have warned Lebanese banks of the grave consequences they will face if they undertake any transactions with Hezbollah, which Washington has labeled a terrorist organization.
The Lebanese banks have assured U.S. officials that all lenders will refuse to conduct transactions for groups sanctioned by the U.S. and EU for terrorist activities.
Murr said Lebanese banks were one of the main pillars of Lebanon.
“Apart from the Army, security forces and judicial authorities, Lebanese banks are the main pillar of Lebanon in general and the Lebanese economy in particular,” he said.
He also warned against any attempt to undermine the country’s banks or apply pressure on them.
Murr stressed Lebanese financial institutions must maintain transparency and abide by all international standards in order to earn the international community’s respect.
Head of ABL Francois Bassil echoed Murr’s remarks that banks were keen to abide by all international laws concerning money laundering and terrorist funding.
“Our worldwide banking expansion has also resulted in significant and varied duties and obligations. The foremost of which is to abide by the international norms and standards of the global banking industry, set by GAFI/FATF, the Basel Committee, global financial institutions and finally the European Union and the United States of America,” Bassil said.
He added that “these standards covered the various business rules for banks in the field of capital adequacy and liquidity, the ‘Big Risks’ – lending to related parties, audit and payment systems and last but not least, the fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism.
“The commitment of the Lebanese banking sector to fighting money laundering and the financing of terrorism has been a growing path since the mid-’90s. We are working, along with Lebanese authorities, to complete the international legal framework concerning cross-border money transfers, or the exchange of tax related information with foreign countries, and other necessary laws and regulations,” he said.