Three Lebanese Forces MPs on Thursday asked the judiciary to open an investigation into the activities of Al-Qard Al-Hasan, a Hezbollah-run micro-lending company sanctioned by the United States, the state-run National News Agency reports.
In the request, submitted by MPs Antoine Habchi, Fadi Karam and Saeed Asmar before the judiciary and a copy of which L'Orient-Le Jour has seen, the MPs denounce "an association that has commercial activities, which grants loans through the mortgage of gold objects and has ATMs that violate the law."
"Al-Qard Al-Hasan claims to be at the service of the Lebanese, but in practice this company carries out illegal financial operations that could lead some of the country's financial institutions to sanctions," the text continues.
Al-Qard Al-Hasan is the largest microcredit organization in Lebanon. Founded in 1983 and registered as a non-governmental organization since 1987, it collects deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts in accordance with the principles of Islamic finance, in dollars or Lebanese lira, and grants micro loans to over 200,000 borrowers.
But this institution based in the southern suburbs of Beirut, which employs nearly 500 people and has about 30 branches throughout Lebanon, operates completely outside the financial system.
Considered an economic pillar of Hezbollah, Al-Qard Al-Hasan has been among the entities sanctioned by the US Treasury since 2007. The collapse of the traditional banking sector in Lebanon, which has been in crisis for more than three years, has only made it a more attractive lending option. Al-Qard Al-Hasan has recently opened new branches in areas of the country where Hezbollah does not traditionally operate.