The headquarters of the Association of Banks of Lebanon after the explosion of the Port of Beirut. Photo Credit: Libnanews.com
The headquarters of the Association of Banks of Lebanon after the explosion of the Port of Beirut. Photo Credit: Libnanews.com

The Association of Banks in Lebanon issued a press release on Tuesday denouncing the decisions to freeze the assets of some of its members as well as their shareholders and managers. The association believes that this “judicial campaign” tarnishes the image and reputation of these establishments and deteriorates the local economy.

As a reminder, Judge Amani Salamé took the decision to freeze the assets of these banks following a complaint filed by a civil society collective entitled “The people want to reform the regime”

This complaint was filed on behalf of the Lebanese depositors. The authors accuse all local banks of breach of trust, negligence, fraudulent bankruptcy, money transfer fraud, damage to the financial reputation of the state, money laundering, enrichment illegal and violation of the constitution guaranteeing private property.

“It is important for the Banking Association to ensure its permanent respect for the judiciary and its absolute attachment to the law and its provisions, especially since deviating from these” established “facts places the banks in the circle of legal targeting, both international and national, and endangers the existence of banking establishments and the safety of their work
The ABL press release
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The ABL however reiterates “the sanctity of depositors”, questioning the advisability “of launching a ruthless campaign against the entire Lebanese banking system, especially since any plan to get Lebanon out of its current ordeal must go through this system “.

The ABL therefore calls for the formation of a stable and credible government, capable of developing an economic rescue plan including the banking sector and of negotiating with the holders of treasury bills.

A decision that is not a first

A similar decision was adopted last year in an investigation into the illegal transfer of funds abroad by the financial prosecutor, Judge Ali Ibrahim; who then reconsidered it at the request of the public prosecutor, Judge Ghassan Oweidat. Indeed, the leaders of the banks had then threatened a general strike of indefinite duration until the cancellation of this measure.

Judge Ali Ibrahim believed that local banks had committed serious violations of Lebanon’s financial laws against their clients by unilaterally establishing, following a decision of the Association of Banks of Lebanon (ABL) and not of the supervisory authorities, that is to say of the Banque du Liban (BDL) or the Ministry of Finance, a capital control. These asset freezing measures were aimed in particular at the managers and owners, but also at the members of the boards of directors of these financial institutions.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri – whose prosecutor Ghassan Oweidat is considered close -, whose relatives own Bank Med, denounced this measure described as populist and having political objectives. These measures also targeted high personalities and some close to the majority of the current parties within the majority or the opposition.

Among the banks concerned at the time, Banque Audi, Banque du Liban et d’Outre-Mer (BLOM Bank), FransaBank, Byblos Bank, Société Générale de Banque du Liban (SGBL), Bank of Beirut (BOB), Bank Med, Banque Libano-Française (BLF), Crédit Libanais, Banque intercontinentale, First National Bank, Lebanon & Gulf Bank, Bank of Beirut and the Arab Countries sal (BBAC), Banque Du Moyen Orient Et De L’Afrique, CEDRUS Bank, Federal Bank of Lebanon, the new company of Banque de Syria et du Liban, Banque Libano-Suisse, Bank Misr, Saradar Bank and Bank el Mawarid ABL

A bankrupt sector that refuses to admit it

The banking sector crisis, although masked by the financial engineering operations carried out by the Banque du Liban, had started much earlier, despite the colossal profits announced by Lebanese banks until last year. In reality, the Banque du Liban thus repaid nearly 16 billion dollars between 2016 and 2018, thus emptying a large part of its monetary reserves in favor of banking establishments.

On the economic front, the crisis that began in 2018 came to light in the summer of 2019 with a shortage of foreign currency, which is nevertheless necessary for the purchase of basic necessities in particular. However, a reversal of financial flows had been observed as early as January 2019. This crisis was then accentuated following the unilateral imposition by Lebanese banks of capital controls, thus blocking access to accounts.

In addition, the deterioration of socio-economic conditions led to numerous demonstrations from October 2019, the demonstrators denouncing a political class considered as corrupt and demanding the departure.

After the resignation of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri on October 29, 2019, a new government chaired by his successor Hassan Diab was formed on January 17, 2020. As early as March, the Lebanese authorities announced a state of default on maturing Eurobonds. In addition, Lebanon has opened negotiations with the IMF with a view to obtaining economic aid of the expected amount of 10 billion dollars.

The report published by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and entitled Crisis in Lebanon, Anatomy of a financial Collapse considers all Lebanese banks studied as insolvent. They are also threatened by legal proceedings, accused of money laundering and because of the link of certain establishments with Hezbollah in the USA.

• Bank Audi SAL
• Bank of Beirut SAL
• Bank of Beirut and the Arab Countries SAL
• Bankmed SAL
• Banque Libano-Française SAL
• BLOM Bank SAL
• Byblos Bank SAL
• Lebanese SAL credit
• Fenicia Bank SAL
• Fransabank SAL
• IBL Bank SAL
• Lebanon and Gulf Bank SAL
• MEAB Bank SAL
• Société Générale de Banque au Liban SAL

Among the banks cited:

In total, the 14 banks taken into account would require an injection of 67 billion dollars, which is far from the maximum sums that Lebanon could obtain in the framework of international aid, that is to say 26 billion dollars (15 billion dollars loans via the IMF and $ 11 billion via CEDRE on the condition of putting in place the economic, monetary and financial reforms necessary to unblock them).

According to calculations made by a foreign expert, all the establishments would require massive injections of funds, going up to 11.9 billion dollars for the BLOM alone, followed by 11 billion dollars for the Bank Audi, amounts today impossible to pay. find in Lebanon itself. The risk of bankruptcy or even complete shudown is therefore present for these establishments with significant losses for current shareholders.

They could only survive if they merge or haircuts the deposits present.

These figures are however refused by local banks.
The negotiations, now suspended, quickly stumbled over the capacity of the Lebanese authorities to carry out the reforms necessary for the release of international aid as well as on the issue of quantifying the losses of the financial sector. The Lebanese authorities estimate that its losses would reach 241 trillion Lebanese pounds on the basis of an exchange rate of 3600 LL / USD. , that is to say approximately 80 billion dollars, which the local banks refuse via the association of the banks of Lebanon or the Bank of Lebanon itself.

The association of banks in Lebanon has thus activated its relays present in parliament. via the parliamentary finance and budget committee. The latter, where some shareholders and representatives of local banks are present, only quantified the financial losses at 81 trillion Lebanese pounds on the basis of an exchange rate of 1507 LL / USD. .

In parallel, the association of banks in Lebanon presented a rescue plan rejected by the IMF and the Lebanese authorities, providing for the sale of part of Lebanon’s gold and the fixed-term session of public goods. This plan is also rejected by specialists who believe that the sale of public goods could only be done by selling them off because of the current circumstances.

Some sources are now citing losses for the financial sector exceeding $ 100 billion, estimating that Lebanon would now require a stimulus package of 63 billion dollars but only 26 billion at most are available . According to these same sources, all Lebanese banks are now insolvent.

For the time being, some experts familiar with the matter note with concern that politico-economic interests are more important for certain parties than the general interest in benefiting from economic aid in the face of the crisis, to the point of estimating that traditional divisions political parties have faded from parliament in favor of the banking party and others.

Also, some of these interests would even have gone so far as to threaten a civil war if the reforms demanded by the international community were carried out. However, it remains firm on this matter.

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Libnanews est un site d'informations en français sur le Liban né d'une initiative citoyenne et présent sur la toile depuis 2006. Notre site est un média citoyen basé à l’étranger, et formé uniquement de jeunes bénévoles de divers horizons politiques, œuvrant ensemble pour la promotion d’une information factuelle neutre, refusant tout financement d’un parti quelconque, pour préserver sa crédibilité dans le secteur de l’information.

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