|19 February, 2020

Lebanon central bank says it's investigating transfers abroad

Lebanese prosecutors had asked the commission on January 2 to contact the Swiss authorities to find out the size of sums transferred there since October 17

A man sits on the stairs in front of the central bank in Beirut, Lebanon May 7, 2019.

A man sits on the stairs in front of the central bank in Beirut, Lebanon May 7, 2019.

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT- The Lebanese central bank is investigating transfers abroad after Oct. 17, its investigation unit said on Wednesday, continuing an inquiry into funds sent out of Lebanon after its descent into a major financial crisis.

Lebanese banks have limiting access to foreign currency and controlling transfers abroad since a wave of anti-government protests erupted in October and a long-brewing economic crisis turned into a financial and banking crisis. The restrictions were not, however, formalized as capital controls.

In a statement, the central bank's investigation commission said it asked banks on Feb. 6 for information about "the size of the amounts, the number of accounts and the operations that were transferred abroad". "This matter is being followed up by the investigation unit," it said.

Lebanese prosecutors had asked the commission on Jan. 2 to contact the Swiss authorities to find out the size of sums transferred there since Oct. 17 and whether the source of the funds was suspicious.

Based on this, the commission had also asked all banks in Lebanon to review accounts of political figures or public-sector officials who had made transfers out of Lebanon from Oct. 17 until the end of 2019.

Reuters reported last month that the banking control commission had asked banks in a Jan. 14 circular for the dates and sizes of transfers to Switzerland since Oct. 17.

(Writing by Tom Perry, editing by Larry King) ((thomas.perry@thomsonreuters.com; Reuters Messaging: thomas.perry.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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