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Lebanon’s Forensic Audit to be resumed

Alvarez & Marsal to audit central bank

The Lebanese authorities decided to appoint a specialized frim to conduct the financial forensic audit accounts of the central bank, ministries, independent administrations, funds and public institutions.

The caretaker Minister of Finance Ghazi Wazni said after meeting with President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace that it was decided, based on the House of Representatives law and government decisions, to communicate with the Alvarez & Marsal company to resume the financial forensic audit.

He said that the government will begin to communicate with the firm today. He also said that the company “sent a letter ten days ago to Banque du Liban expressing its readiness to resume working with Lebanon”.

Last July, the Lebanese government agreed to conduct a forensic audit of the accounts of the central bank, and assigned Alvarez & Marsal ,a New York-based company.

A financial forensic audit usually aims to find documents or information to prosecute suspects of financial corruption. Then, these documents are presented to the Lebanese court.

After the Beirut explosion, the financial forensic audit became a basic requirement for international donors and the International Monetary Fund to aid Lebanon.

Last November, Alvarez & Marsal withdrew from the forensic audit of the central bank’s accounts, saying that the bank refused to provide needed data.

Banking secrecy

At the time, press reports stated that Banque du Liban refused to hand over all the required data to the company, under the pretext of contradicting Lebanese laws, including banking secrecy law.

Lebanon has adopted the banking secrecy law since 1956, which prohibits the disclosure of banking secrets to any judicial, administrative or financial party.

The Lebanese Parliament approved on Monday a law to suspend the banking secrecy law for one year.

Economists believe that one year is not enough, given that the company’s decision to resume the auditing requires a new agreement that will take time to achieve, especially since the government is still in the caretaker period.

President intervenes

On November 24, the Lebanese President sent a letter to the House of Representatives’ Speaker Nabih Berri calling on him to collaborate with the executive authority so that the state can achieve the forensic audit of the central bank accounts.

The president called for applying the audit, in accordance with international standards, on all state public facilities, in order to achieve the required reform and the necessary aid programs for Lebanon.

The Lebanese are suffering from a long series of restrictions the country’s banks imposed more than a year ago. The restrictions included the seizure of their hard currency deposits.

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