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U.S. concerned at ‘abuses’ in Lebanese banking system, urges probes -Breaking

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© Reuters. This view is of Banks Street (Beirut Central District), Lebanon, August 22, 2019 REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

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BEIRUT, (Reuters) – A U.S. Treasury delegation urged Lebanese officials to investigate what it called abuses in the Lebanese bank system by members the political and economically elite.

An unusually candid statement was made by a high-ranking delegation at the end of its three-day trip to Beirut. The representative did not mention which elite members it meant, in a country that has been plagued with corruption and abuses of power for a while.

Following the nation’s financial crisis of 2019, allegations of financial misconduct by top officials soared. While banks tightened controls on hard currencies for savers, critics argue that certain people who had more power were allowed to access these funds. Banks deny claims of favoritism toward certain clients.

Delegation “emphasized the importance of making serious efforts in investigating those abuses,” stated the statement. This refers to both the Banque du Liban, and an investigative unit that was set up for the purpose of probing illicit financial activities.

It said that the group had asked for appropriate authorities to investigate and conduct due diligence into any transactions.

According to the Association of Banks in Lebanon, (ABL), they are committed to helping fight corruption. This statement was made after a meeting Wednesday between Salim Sfeir, ABL’s head and the Treasury delegation.

Sfeir informed the delegation banks that they were continuing to make every effort under current circumstances to apply appropriate standards of compliance and exercise adequate diligence in controlling the flow of money through the system.

According to USAID’s website, the United States was Lebanon’s largest donor. It provided more than $370million in humanitarian assistance to Lebanon between 2021 and 2021.

Treasury requested that the government adopt a financial plan to recover depositors in Lebanon, particularly those with smaller accounts.

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