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If Lebanon ducks the FATF grey list, does this show the process is arbitrary


A report says Lebanon will not be included in the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force for non-cooperative countries in combating money laundering and terrorism financing. The assessment report — expected next month — will clarify the gaps that Lebanon needs to address and some points of strength

The story:

Lebanon has not been included in the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force for non-cooperative countries in combating money laundering and terrorism financing, a top official confirmed on Monday.

The country has, however, been subjected to an assessment of its commitment to international standards for a period of 16 months, said Abdul Hafiz Mansour, secretary-general of the special investigation commission concerned with implementing the anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing law.

Mansour’s remarks followed his meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

The assessment report — expected next month — will clarify the gaps that Lebanon needs to address, as well as some points of strength, said Mansour. A follow-up report will be presented to the group in 2024.

A highly professional team represented Lebanon during the discussions and deliberations at the 36th Middle East and North Africa FATF plenary meeting held in Bahrain, Mansour said, adding that the team “made great efforts to discuss this report, and God willing, we will see the results next month.”

Among the points that Lebanon must address are the judicial procedures that the group considered “slow” in dealing with suspects of money laundering whose names are listed by the special investigation commission.

In another development, Deputy Prime Minister Saadeh Al-Shami called for Central Bank Gov. Riad Salameh to resign from his position “due to the sensitivity of the situation and the serious accusations against him.”

He said in a television statement: “The governor’s resignation does not mean admitting guilt, but in the current tragic economic situation, it would bring greater credibility to the country and would be a courageous stance.”

The law stipulates that the deputy governor assumes the presidency of the central bank in the absence of the governor, Al-Shami said, adding that Deputy Gov. Wassim Mansouri is competent to fulfill the position.

The term of the governor is set to end at the end of July this year.

Salameh is scheduled to appear on Wednesday before the attorney general at the court of cassation.

He is to be interrogated regarding the arrest warrant issued against him by the German public prosecutor last week on charges of money laundering, forgery and embezzlement.

The warrant was turned into a red notice, which was transmitted to the Lebanese judiciary on Monday by Interpol.

The governor’s Lebanese diplomatic and French passports were earlier seized by the Lebanese judiciary to prevent him from traveling.

The Lebanese judiciary is still waiting for the French authorities, through Interpol, to hand over Salameh’s extradition case so that it may resume interrogating him and decide whether to try him in Lebanon for the crimes he is accused of in France or to close the case, given that Lebanon does not extradite its citizens for trial abroad.

Salameh’s summons on Wednesday coincides with a hearing to investigate his brother, Raja Salameh, before the French judiciary.

The hearing was previously scheduled for May 31, and it precedes a hearing to investigate Salameh’s assistant, Marianne Al-Houeik, scheduled for June 13.

The European investigations — which include France, Germany, and Luxembourg — focus on the relationship between the central bank and the company Forry Associates, registered in the Virgin Islands with an office in Beirut and owned by Raja Salameh.

Mikati has called for a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday to discuss the agreement reached with French lawyers to assist the head of the litigation division at the Ministry of Justice in the lawsuit filed by the French state before the French investigative judge in the case of the central bank governor.


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