BEIRUT: Speakers at a conference on money laundering and
terrorism funding Thursday underlined the importance of cooperating with the
international community and the U.S. to combat this phenomenon. Joseph Torbey,
the chairman of the Union of Arab Banks, told the participants at the
conference, which was organized by the Union of Arab Banks, that Arab banks had
held several meetings with U.S. Treasury officials to discuss measures to crack
down on money laundering and terrorism financing.
“The issue of money laundering and terrorism financing
remains a global concern despite international, regional and national laws,
which include a number of agreements that set a framework for coordinating the
efforts of countries and organizations globally and regionally to encounter
this phenomenon,” Torbey said.
He added that the international community is updating laws
and measures in view of new methods and techniques used by those involved in
money laundering and terrorism financing.
“All official and nonofficial [reports] around the world
have concluded that money laundering has doubled dramatically over the past two
decades. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated global money
laundering in 2016 at around 2-5 percent of world GDP, or around $1.5 trillion
to $2 trillion. Global spending on compliance against money laundering is
expected to exceed $8 billion,” he added.
According to the latest report by the Special Investigation
Commission, Lebanon lifted banking secrecy in 42 cases of suspected involvement
in money laundering, embezzlement and terrorist funding in 2016.
The report said the SIC received 470 cases and investigated
It added that 71 cases are still pending, which means the
commission will determine if they will be prosecuted, depending on the strength
of the evidence.
Torbey noted that organizations and individuals behind
money laundering and terrorism funding have exploited technology and advanced
data systems to channel money.
He added that banks have invested heavily to counter these
methods and coordinated closely with financial authorities around the world.
“The Union of Arab Banks has been seeking for years to
achieve effective international cooperation in the field of detecting,
combating and controlling cases of money laundering and financing terrorism and
extremist groups because these crimes are considered a menace to all societies
and countries,” Torbey said.
He added that the Union of Arab Banks has a set a platform
for dialogue with the European Union, the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Treasury
and correspondent banks.
The President of the Special Investigation Commission Abdul
Hafiz Mansour also emphasized the importance of increasing cooperation with the
international community to counter money laundering and terrorism financing.
Mansour drew attention to the rise in cybercrime in Lebanon
and around the world. “The losses resulting from cybercrime are estimated at
billions of dollars. The seriousness of these funds is the rapid transfer of
funds and the difficulty of tracking them because they are crossed by several
countries very quickly, so it is difficult to investigate the perpetrators and
prosecute the perpetrator,” he added.