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BDL will provide outstanding documents necessary for the forensic audit’s revival, the Finance Ministry says

BDL will provide outstanding documents necessary for the forensic audit’s revival, the Finance Ministry says

The Finance Ministry’s announcement that BDL will hand over the rest of the documents requested as part of a forensic audit of its activity during the past five years paves the way for the audit’s revival in the coming months. (Credit: Patrick Baz/AFP)

BEIRUT — Banque du Liban has agreed to hand over the remaining documents requested as part of a forensic audit of its activity during the past five years, the Finance Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

Lebanon is set to begin providing the outstanding documents starting Friday, the ministry said.

The statement came after a meeting on Tuesday attended by representatives from BDL, the Finance Ministry and Alvarez & Marsal, the consulting firm that had originally requested the documents under a contract to perform the audit, which is intended to shed light on the causes of Lebanon’s worst financial crisis in decades.

The move represents significant progress for the audit, whose fate has hung in the balance for months.

It hit a snag soon after being ordered late last year, when BDL Gov. Riad Salameh refused to turn over the documents requested by Alvarez & Marsal, citing a banking secrecy law that he said protected information about commercial bank accounts and prevented him from cooperating.

The resistance led the firm to cancel its contract.

Then, in December, Parliament voted to lift banking secrecy on all accounts available at the central bank and other public institutions for a year, removing any apparent legal obstacles to the audit.

But last week, following claims from the central bank that it had since handed over “all state and banks’ accounts” available at BDL, Wazni’s office issued a sharp rebuke.

BDL’s claims of cooperation were “contrary to reality,” the office said in a statement, adding that the central bank had provided just 42 percent of the documents.

When previously asked for comment about Wazni’s response to BDL’s claims, a central bank spokesperson was unable to provide any further details.

The spokesperson did not immediately comment on Tuesday’s developments; it remains unclear whether the central bank concurs with the Finance Ministry’s statement.

According to the statement, all the outstanding information should be transferred to a ministry representative at BDL by the end of April.

This will pave the way for the Finance Ministry to reactivate the contract with Alvarez & Marsal. The contract can be reinstated even though the cabinet is still in caretaker status because the expenses for BDL’s forensic audit were allocated in the 2020 state budget, according to Karim Daher, a lawyer specializing in public finance and tax law.

The caretaker government “can move forward with the existing contract with Alvarez & Marsal as it is already defined in its scope and expenses,” said Daher.

However, additional expenses related to auditing other public sector institutions would require authorization from Parliament, he said.

Although the yearlong lifting of the banking secrecy law would render such audits possible, delineating funding for them falls outside the scope of the caretaker cabinet’s authority, he added.


BEIRUT — Banque du Liban has agreed to hand over the remaining documents requested as part of a forensic audit of its activity during the past five years, the Finance Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.Lebanon is set to begin providing the outstanding documents starting Friday, the ministry said.The statement came after a meeting on Tuesday attended by representatives from BDL, the...