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Ex-financial chief says bankers smuggled $6bn out of Lebanon

Jul 15

Ex-financial chief says bankers smuggled $6bn out of Lebanon

The former in the Lebanese Ministry of Finance, Bifani said Monday that Lebanese bankers have smuggled nearly $6 billion out of the country since October despite financial regulations imposed to save the country from the worst financial crisis in 30 years, a former Ministry of Finance official revealed yesterday.

Alain Bifani, who resigned from his post of director-general of public finance two weeks ago, told the Financial Times that the banking sector data shows that $5.5-$6 billion had been “smuggled outside the country” by “bankers who would [not allow] every other depositor to take $100”.

Bifani accused Lebanese politicians and bankers of trying to “benefit from the system without incurring the slightest loss” while making the ordinary Lebanese pay the heavy price.

Lebanon’s currency, the lira, has lost more than 80 per cent of its value since anti-government protests started in October. Although officially pegged at 1,507.5 to $1, the lira is currently trading around 9,000 to $1 on the black market. Nevertheless, dollars, though highly sought after, are increasingly scarce.

The dearth of dollars, compounded by the rapid devaluation of the currency and informal banking restrictions, which limit the amounts depositors can withdraw on a weekly basis and ban most international transfers, have left citizens struggling to make ends meet, with the coronavirus further exacerbating the situation.