Written by: Joseph Farah
Translated by: Lina Yahya Raydan
NNA - Lebanese and Arab Banks have been undergoing hard times following the case of BNP Paribas Bank, especially with the adjusted formula which was issued few days ago regarding the American draft titled "fighting Hizbullah international financial activities", not to mention the sanctions imposed on the Lebanese telecommunication Company "Stars Holding Group" and the repercussions of accusing FBME Bank in Cyprus of laundering money, as well as the outcome that might show up until the international negotiations over the Iranian nuclear file are resumed in a few months.
It is to note that BNP Paribas Bank was accused of violating the American sanctions against Sudan, Iran and Cuba.
To understand better these legal issues, we visited the professor at the American University in Beirut (AUB) president of the Banks' Committee at the lawyers' Syndicate, Paul Morcos.
Responding to a question, the professor said," the American legal system is internationally the most famous and capable of imposing its laws outside national territories based on a legal statute known as "Power Grab" such as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)."
FATCA is a United States federal law approved recently to make it more difficult for U.S. tax payers --including individuals who live outside the United States-- to conceal assets held in offshore accounts and shell corporations, and thus to recoup federal tax revenues.
"As for Bank BNP Paribas case, the USA authorities consider any financial operations using the American currency (%80 of the world financial operations are in American dollar)-- even between two foreign countries-- befall under its authority as the settlement of these operations are cleared through the American system ," Morcos said, adding that makes the U.S. law applicable; duly, the U.S.A. has the right to know the final beneficiary party under the pretext of fighting terrorism and money laundry and benefiting from its advanced informatics abilities.
However; Bank BNP Paribas has considered that it has not committed any wrong action as it respected the French and Swiss laws.
Talking about the draft of banning Hizbullah's International Financing Activities, Morcos said, "on 8/6/2010, the two members of the Foreign Affairs Committee for Middle East issues at the Congress, Mark Medus and Brad Schneider, proposed a draft that would allow the American authorities to pursue banks that do business with Hizbullah or any people who have relations with the party.
The draft underwent some amendments after which the House Foreign Relations Committee unanimously agreed on 27/6/2014 on the adjusted law draft which would aim at determining the organizations that support Al-Manar T.V. channel.
The bill also would target to label Hizbullah as a "Drug Trafficking" Organization and a "Cross-Border Criminal" Organization."
Morcos expressed content over the "way the Governor of Lebanon Central Bank dealt with the issue and the awareness of the Lebanese banks in this regard."
Commenting on the expected date to the approval of the draft, the Professor said that the bill should be approved by both councils of the House and the Congress to be legal.
He noted that the Senate would be on vacation in August and would resume its activities in September and October before the beginning of the American elections in November 2014.
Responding to a question about the effectiveness of the said bill, Morcos said, "the money of the organizations which are prohibited by the United States are usually deposited under fake names and would be difficult for private banks to control them upon U.S.A observed laws. But those who wrote the current bill created a way to exert pressure on Central Banks to pressure banks."
"This is the new privacy in the bill," Morcos said, indicating that both the House of Representatives and the Senate support the said bill , especially after the war against Gaza as many of the members of both councils consider that Hamas is Hizbullah's "cousin".