Published On: Fri, Nov 27th, 2020

MEAB Chairman Ali Hejeij: Lebanese Banks Will Not Be Collateral Damage!

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The Lebanese banks are suffering yet another blow following a difficult financial year as the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Lebanon’s former transportation and public works minister Youssef Fenianos, Ali Hassan Khalil, the former finance minister as well as former minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil.

However, according to MEAB Chairman Ali Hejeij the Lebanese banks, as well as the Central Bank, are prepared to deal with those sanctions in a way that will preserve the future of the banking sector.  

“There is a clear mechanism set in place on how to deal with the sanctions that are initiated as soon as they sanctions are announced and pop up on our screening programs who are connected to the US Treasury department as well as other European and international financial organizations”, he said during an interview with local TV station MTV.

MEAB Chairman Ali Hejeij

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“The first step, as per the instructions of the regulator, the Central Bank of Lebanon, is to send an official letter to the Special Investigation Commission as well as the Banking Control Commission to inform them whether the sanctioned individual has current, frozen or closed accounts at the bank. At the same time, the Special Investigation Commission, as well as the Banking Control Commission, will send us an official note asking if the individual in person is indebted to the bank and ask us to come up with a payment plan and to build instantly collective provisions as per BDL circular 286”, he added. 

According to Hejeij, Lebanese banks have complied with all international protocols and guidelines whether it is regarding sanctions as well as laws, regulations, and procedures regarding anti-money laundering laws and the financial Anti-Terrorism Act.

“Lebanese banks have maintained over the years and in spite of all the current issues an excellent working relationship with foreign banks which allows us to meet the needs of our clients in regards to foreign currencies because if we don’t conform to those regulations we won’t be able to operate in international markets”, he explained.  

In his opinion, the sanctions are political and banks should stand on the neutral sideline to avoid becoming collateral damage as it was instructed by the French initiative.

“Unfortunately the future of the banking sector is taken hostage by the Lebanese political scene”, he concluded.

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