Lebanon news: banking sector “can’t handle” additional legislation against secrecy

Lebanon is ranked 7th on the 2013 Financial Secrecy Index; last week the Lebanese Daily Star reported on a conference at which the head of the World Union of Arab banks “urged international financial organizations not to adopt new legislation that would further compromise banking secrecy in Lebanon.”

Joseph Torbey “noted that geostrategic problems in the region, along with sanctions imposed on Iran and Syria, have already compelled the Lebanese financial and banking sector to comply with increasingly strict U.S and European regulations” and urged international and regional organizations “not to impose [additional] legislation, because Lebanon’s banking sector can’t handle it.”

“He added that Lebanon would respect international agreements but could not blatantly violate its own banking secrecy laws, which he described as a main feature of the sector’s success, pointing out that if Lebanon lost money invested from abroad, it would head toward an economic crisis.”

The article – which is interesting throughout – also provides historical context: “Lebanon’s banking sector is renowned for its 1965 banking secrecy law, which restricts banks from revealing client names or account information.”

A second, shorter Daily Star piece says that “Lebanon banks help US in fight against tax evasion”:

“Lebanese financial institutions are committed to full compliance with a U.S. anti-tax evasion law to become effective July 1, according to legal experts from both countries, who urged Lebanese citizens with dual citizenship to follow suit.

As of today, some 114 financial institutions operating in Lebanon have registered with the U.S. to comply with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, according to the Internal Revenue Service website, and more are to follow, said Chahdan E. Jebeyli, head of the legal and compliance group at bank Audi, Lebanon’s largest lender.”

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