Lebanon Businessnews News

Banks defy terror and
commit to business as usual
Makram Sader: BLOM Bank not being overzealous
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BLOM Bank said the explosion targeting its headquarters on Sunday evening did not result in any damage to the bank’s documents. It stated that services continue to be provided across all its branches. Headquarters operations are being carried out in the adjoining premises until repair works are completed.

Some media reports linked the explosion to the closing of bank accounts in compliance with the US Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act.

Makram Sader, Secretary General of the Association of Banks (ABL), said that BLOM Bank is not being overzealous in complying U.S. regulations pertaining to money laundering and financing terrorism. “I don’t know where some press reports are getting their information from,” he said.

Sader said that local banks close the accounts of clients that are on the list of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury. When banks are suspicious, the suspect accounts are referred to the Central Bank’s (BDL) Special Investigation Commission (SIC. “The relationship between our banks with the American side is not strenuous. The US is not acting arbitrarily regarding the compliance of local banks to regulations related to money laundering and financing terrorism,” he said. “US authorities are not eager to be chopping heads. They just want their law to be implemented,” he said. If a problem arises with a bank, there is normally a due course, and an opportunity to remedy or explain. “Grey areas are dealt with by the SIC in concert with foreign and local authorities,” he said.

Randa Abou Sleiman, Managing Partner at Abou Sleiman Law Firm, said that US sanctions apply to US banks and that US courts have jurisdictions over the American correspondent banks that deal with Lebanese banks. The correspondent banks could be ordered not to deal with a Lebanese bank so there is nothing that can be done locally to protect a local bank, she said.

“The Governor of BDL told ABL that it will maintain its current policy of applying the requirements of international regulations,” Sader said.

ABL urged the authorities to uncover the perpetrators. It said that local banks operate according to high professional standards and within the rules prevalent in international markets. ABL said that the banks abide by Lebanese laws and by BDL’s guidelines.

BLOM, the country’s second largest bank, has more than 400,000 client accounts locally. The number of shareholders exceeds 10,000 while its local workforce consists of more than 2,500 employees.
Reported by Shikrallah Nakhoul
Date Posted: Jun 13, 2016
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