Hezbollah doesn’t bank in Lebanon: Bassil

File - People stand in line to buy the fifty thousand bill that was released by the Lebanese Central Bank in Beirut, Thursday, May 15, 2014. (The Daily Star/HO)

BEIRUT: As the U.S. Senate prepares to discuss more financial sanctions on Hezbollah’s finances, the head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon said Friday that all lenders were complying fully with international anti-terrorist lists.

“The entire banking sector is in full compliance with the U.S, and European directives that prohibit all banks from dealing with suspected terrorists groups and individuals. I can also confirm that we [banks] don’t have any accounts of Hezbollah individuals,” Francois Bassil told The Daily Star.

Washington has been increasing pressure on all international banks to block any attempt by groups it deems as terrorist, including Hezbollah, to open accounts or transfer funds through their systems.

In February 2012, the United States accused the now-defunct Lebanese Canadian Bank of money laundering and terrorist funding, prompting Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh to travel to Washington to resolve the case.

Total assets of the Lebanese-Canadian Bank were acquired by SGBL for $425 million.

“We usually send a delegation to Washington once every six months to brief the concerned parties about the actions we are taking. All of the U.S. officials we have met expressed satisfaction with the measures we are taking,” Bassil said.

He added that an international consultancy firm based in Europe supplies Lebanese banks with an updated list of terrorist individuals and groups.

“We abide by these updates to the letter. We also comply with the money laundering law. We have no interest in tarnishing our reputation by accepting suspicious funds,” Bassil explained.

He denied that the U.S. Treasury intended to blacklist any Lebanese banks.

A banker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Hezbollah apparently received money from Iran through different illegal channels. “I don’t think Hezbollah has an interest in opening an account with any Lebanese bank because they know that this account would be frozen,” the banker said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 07, 2014, on page 4.




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