Money transfer through borders to be controlled. Travelers will be required to declare cash, or financial bonds, exceeding $15,000 to Customs - Lebanon

Money transfer through borders to be controlled
Travelers will be required to declare cash, or financial bonds, exceeding $15,000 to Customs
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Cash leaving or entering the country will soon be subject to State control. A draft law authorizing Customs offices to inspect and report the transfer of currency in and out of the country is under discussion at the Budget and Finance Parliamentary Committee.

According to the bill, all persons transporting money exceeding $15,000 will be required to submit a written declaration to the Customs authorities. The declaration includes the carrier's identity, the money's ownership, and the purpose of the cash. Travelers are also required to provide Customs with relevant information upon request.

Abdel Hafiz Mansour, chairman of the Special Investigation Commission for combating money laundering and terrorism financing (SIC), at the Central Bank, said the law aims to control cash flow: “The law will help prevent money-laundering, tax evasion, and corruption.”

Cross-border cash transfer includes any physical in-bound or out-bound transportation of currency and bearer negotiable instruments (BNIs), such as commercial or financial notes. It includes transportation by a person in that person's luggage or vehicle, shipment through cargo containers, or via mail.

Mansour said a record will be kept for each traveler who has made a declaration: “This log will be used to detect the unjustified frequent transfer of large amounts of money.” Customs offices will be authorized to search travelers, luggage, and vehicles to verify the submitted declarations or disclosures. Persons who give false declarations or disclosures, or who refuse to declare or disclose, will be penalized. Authorities can also seize amounts thought to be of money-laundering concern. Suspicious amounts are reported to the SIC which is also entitled to view all declarations or disclosures.

The law complies with recommendations of the regional Financial Action Task Force (MENA FATF) on Money Laundering in which Lebanon is a member. According to Mansour, the international convention, usually referred to by its French acronym GAFI, called on Lebanon to adopt these regulations in 2009: “We have to adopt the recommendation before the next evaluation (of our compliance) which will be held soon.”

The draft law, which was endorsed by Cabinet in mid-March, still has to pass a Parliamentary vote. But the bill is expected to come through soon, especially amid allegations that the country is being infiltrated with dirty money.

Reported by Hanadi Chami
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Date Posted: Aug 10, 2012