BEIRUT- The United States has put more than 100 individuals and entities affiliated with Hezbollah onto sanctions lists since 2001, under existing anti-terrorism funding legislation. Today, Lebanon’s central bank governor stated that Lebanese banks ought to comply with a new U.S. law targeting Shi’ite group Hezbollah’s finances.
Noting that the U.S. Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act (HIFPA) passed in December threatens sanctions against anyone who finances Hezbollah in a significant way.
Governor Riad Salameh said there is a huge risk, shall they fail to comply with the law, of an international isolation of the country’s banking sector to take place.
The latter added that banks must comply with the law, however no accounts will be closed without justification, and assured citizens that laws protect them from having bank accounts arbitrarily blocked or shut downm.
Thus, Banks which intend to close accounts of individuals or organizations considered to be in breach of the U.S. law must provide justification for that decision, and wait for a response from the Central Bank’s Special Investigation Committee, which “enjoys independence”, he said.
The United States has a list of people sanctioned for terrorism. A Lebanese bank or company doing business with anybody on the list will not be able to deal with any U.S. financial institution because that institution could be fined for non-compliance.
Lebanon’s banking sector accounts for around 6 percent of gross domestic product.