A losing hand in the banking issue

14 June 2016 | 15:34
  • By T.K. Maloy
  • Last update: 14 June 2016 | 15:34

BEIRUT: At question as possibly up to a thousand Hezbollah-related bank accounts face suspension in coming months, is amid verbally lashing out at this move, can the group realistically change a scenario that suggest access to banking is gone for good?

Who really holds all the cards between Hezbollah versus the Lebanese banking sector, the Lebanese Central Bank, but most of all, international banking regulations?

The question will answer itself definitively in short order during the coming weeks, but the losing hand should already be fairly obvious.

Amid all the fracas of the implementation of the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act (HIPCA), some group or agent provocateur detonated a bomb outside a bank Sunday night.

No one has taken responsibility for the calculated bombing of the all-glass headquarters of the BLOM Bank in Verdun, West Beirut. But as Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk pointed out, the purpose was "political."

Giving the benefit of a doubt, the bombing could have been executed by anyone, including someone trying to drag Hezbollah further into an untenable situation.

The party has bitterly complained about the US banking regulations that have shut the group out of the banking sector. In a statement last week, Hezbollah's Loyalty To Resistance bloc said, "The policy of blackmail and various type of pressures that US administrations practice against countries and forces that are opposed to their policies will never manage to arm-twist Hezbollah or change its stances against the US tyranny and injustice."

It added, "The current US administration's targeting of the resistance and its supporters through the Lebanese banking sector is doomed to fail and will not succeed in achieving its objectives."

Why protest your outing from a system unless it is one that perhaps you markedly needed - some say it is simply to regain some lost respect with a verbal assault against a sanctions move that is becoming well entrenched.

It should be noted, in the end, it is not politics, but economics that really rule much of the world, and if you are shut out of the world financial systems, your prospects for success in a number of endeavors are vastly diminished. That after all this is the goal of all sanctions regimes in the modern world.

The day after the bombing the Association of Banks of Lebanon released a statement, which said in part, "The Association of Banks ...notes that banks are used to work in an environment full of challenges, where the banking sector always emerges stronger and more solid."

The statement added importantly, "banks operate according to the best professional practices and within the prevailing regulations in the international markets, and are also subject to Lebanese Laws in force and the provisions of the Central Bank circulars in order to preserve the interests of all Lebanese."

BLOM Bank said Monday in a release, "We thank God that this attack did not lead to any fatalities and merely material damage," adding, "Papers and documents in the bank were untouched. The bank will continue to provide services in all its branches, and until renovation is complete the headquarters will continue its work in the bank's opposite building."

BLOM noted that it serves all social classes and religious sects in Lebanon.

After a recent series of Beirut meetings by the key US Treasury official handling the HIPCA issue, Assistant Secretary Daniel Glaser, the US Embassy said that "the law does not target Lebanon, nor does it target the Shia community."

There is a more assured way to open an account in Lebanon, or indeed anywhere in the world, going forward, and that is not to be financially related to Hezbollah, those are the cards.

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