The SIC, Lebanon's Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), receives, analyzes, investigates suspicious transaction reports (STRs) and ensures compliance of banks, financial institutions and other reporting entities with the AML/CFT regulations.
BEIRUT: Political reforms and a new fair election law are among the most effective ways to fight corruption in Lebanon, Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil said Wednesday.
The minister called for a nonsectarian electoral law in Lebanon.
“Bottom line, we need political reforms. This can only start with a new election law based on the spirit of the charter and securing proper representation for the Lebanese away from confessional and sectarian affiliation,” Khalil said.
Khalil’s remarks came during a forum organized by Confex in coordination with the Central Bank of Lebanon at Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel.
Dubbed “Fighting corruption: between theory and practice,” the forum is aimed at discussing ways of fighting corruption in Lebanon in addition to highlighting challenges facing the different development sectors in the country.
Khalil emphasized the need to activate the work of institutions by electing a president for the Lebanese Republic in addition to forming a new government and holding legislative sessions in Parliament.
“Fighting corruption should start with the election of a new president and the formation of a government that would maintain the current political balance while dealing properly with citizens’ affairs,” he said.
Khalil expressed his optimism about Lebanon’s ability to fight corruption by adhering to laws regardless of people’s personal interests and religious priorities. “We should not run away from our responsibilities and challenges but we should rather use current laws to fight corruption while introducing the necessary reforms,” he said.
Khalil underlined the country’s urgent need for legislative reforms. “We need to adopt new legislation that would strengthen Lebanon’s presence in the international arena especially when it comes to dealing with financial issues,” he added.
He argued that it was not logical for Lebanon to miss the chance of accessing soft loans and launching new projects due to its inability to draft the necessary legislation that paves the way to signing important agreements with donor countries.
“Lebanon cannot avoid adopting laws that are necessary to protect its financial stability,” he said.
He added that fighting corruption needs serious will by Cabinet and the judicial body.
“We should be able to protect the judicial body in Lebanon from political intervention while removing all obstacles that may hinder its work,” he said.
Khalil criticized the failure of successive governments to approve even one budget in the past 10 years. “I cannot find a logical answer on why the government has been unable to approve a budget for the past years,” he said. “I cannot explain either how a country can manage its departments without having a budget that governs the Cabinet’s development policies.”
Other speakers, such as Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, also highlighted the importance of combatting corruption by ensuring transparency in Lebanon’s banking sector.
“The banking sector in Lebanon has become very well equipped with the necessary tools which ensure its proper and transparent performance thanks to the circulars issued by the Central Bank for that purpose,” Salameh said.
He added that the Special Investigation Commission endeavors to track all illegal money circulating in the banking system. “But this does not absolve banks, financial institutions and money exchange firms from their responsibility in fighting money laundering,” he added.
Joseph Torbey, chairman of the World Union of Arab Bankers, expressed his displeasure with Lebanon’s ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. “Our ranking is a clear indicator of our failure,” he said.
According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2014, Lebanon ranked 136th out of 175 countries on the list.
Lebanon scored 27 points in the index, compared with 28 last year, resulting in a fall from 127th place in 2013 to 136th in 2014. This placed Lebanon alongside Russia, Iran, Cameroon, Kyrgyzstan and Nigeria, and just ahead of Comoros, Uganda and Ukraine.
“I do understand that the successive wars in Lebanon contributed to this low ranking but this does not justify the continuous drop in the country’s position on Transparency International’s corruption list,” Torbey said.
“This contradicts with the fact that Lebanon was among the first democratic countries with a liberal economic system in the region.”
Ferid Belhaj, World Bank director for the Middle East, said that Lebanon was not the only country suffering from corruption but most of the countries in the world are still discussing until today ways to stop corruption and limiting the lack of transparency in using public money.
He added that the World Bank supports any initiative that aims at fighting corruption to improve Lebanon’s growth.