The Board of Directors of the Association of Banks in Lebanon held a meeting and the following press release was published:
The Association of Banks in Lebanon reassures its permanent respect for the judiciary and its absolute commitment to the law and its provisions, especially since deviating from this established fact places banks in the circle of legal targeting, both international and domestic, and endangers the existence of banking institutions and the safety of their work.
However, some flawed judicial decisions taken recently have extremely devastating effects on the banking sector and all it represents at the social and economic levels, leading therefore to negative consequences not only on the sector but on the national economy and the Lebanese themselves as well.
It goes without saying that the people’s demands are a right, and the rights of the depositors are sacred. Nevertheless, the campaigns of defamation targeting national banks’ leaders in addition to the arbitrary accusations of practices rejected and condemned by the local and international communities, such as the accusations of money smuggling and money laundering, slander the Lebanese banking system for an unlimited duration, depriving it therefore from international financial markets. What benefit would be gained from launching a ruthless campaign against the entire Lebanese banking system, especially since any plan to advance Lebanon from its current ordeal must pass judgment through this system?
The Association of Banks in Lebanon, aware of depositors’ rights and demands and their fear concerning their deposits, recognizes that the solution for the current crisis lies in rectifying the anomalies the political scene has been suffering from for a while now, by reactivating all authorities. The executive authority is almost paralyzed, the legislative authority is working at less than its capacity, and the judiciary s concerned about an impending vacancy that may hinder its work.
All internal and external parties are aware that forming a new reliable, efficient and credible government is the first and fundamental step on the road to progress, as it is an indispensable step to the country’s recovery, to restart negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and with sovereign bondholders, and to launch a set of long-awaited vital reforms. Only then can we, though a practical and progressive process, give back to people what we owe them, as they have been, for over thirty years, our family, our support, and the essential factor to our stability, success, and resilience.
Lebanon’s banks have worked hard and diligently until they were able to extract international recognition for the quality of their work. GAFI praised its seriousness in adhering to all standards and procedures related to combatting money laundering and terrorist financing. How would Lebanese banks possibly violate the banking sector’s rules and the standards for combatting money laundering and terrorist financing overnight and after taking sudden internal decisions? Is it objective to hold banks alone accountable for the latest developments on the national and regional scenes, and for the political and economic changes?
Accusing banks of such crimes means that the heavy consequences of the political crisis affecting the country and the general economic policies are ignored, as well as the structural damage affecting the deposits which will always belong to depositors.
The judicial authority and the citizens must be informed that these continuous accusations could lead to further damage of the relations Lebanon holds with correspondent banks. The deterioration in this vital relation that we seek to maintain will deliver the coup de grace to the Lebanese, whether they are residents or expatriates, especially that Lebanese banks are available in 30 countries and serving the diaspora, which is a source for external liquidity currently available but required for the future. This fact must be taken into consideration in order to realize the negative consequences it will have on the national and international levels.
The Association of banks in Lebanon, reaffirming its full respect for the judiciary according to the rules specified in the law, and by virtue of reservation and non-politicization, calls on the judicial personnel to take precautions concerning all the above mentioned so that the results be consistent with the expectations and goals.
The continuous attack against banks and bankers is not the most efficient way of regaining free access to deposits, which are preserved and documented with the State and Central Bank and which the legality of their use is indisputable.