Lebanese President Michel Aoun said yesterday, Saturday, that the criminal audit of the Lebanese Central Bank is necessary to fight corruption, and stressed that it will take the necessary measures to put it back on track after the withdrawal of a consulting firm contracted to conduct the audit.
In a televised speech marking the 77th anniversary of Lebanon’s independence, President Aoun added that “interest barricades” were put in place to obstruct the scrutiny process, which he described as a fundamental requirement of foreign donors and the International Monetary Fund to help Lebanon get out of the financial collapse.
Aoun described the withdrawal of an international auditing firm, Alvarez & Marsal, as a “setback to the logic of establishing the state, as criminal audit is the gateway to every reform.”
On the anniversary of his country’s independence, the Lebanese President warned that Lebanon has become “prisoner of a system of political, financial and administrative corruption covered with various kinds of shields,” and “a prisoner of dictates, external disputes and internal hostilities that make independence, sovereignty and democracy just empty words.”
I will not retreat in the matter of criminal financial auditing, whatever the obstacles, and I will take the necessary measures to restart its course …
The deputies call on the nation to fulfill their legislative duty, on the basis of which the people have placed their trust in them.
I call on the media to fight this battle in all honesty and transparency, for this is the real arena for fighting corruption
— General Michel Aoun (@General_Aoun) November 21, 2020
The reason for the withdrawal
On Friday, the company justified the suspension of its work by not obtaining the required information and documents, and its uncertainty of reaching that information, despite its obtaining at the beginning of this month to extend its work for 3 months to receive the required documents.
President Aoun, his current and some of his allies accuse the governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon (Central Bank) Riad Salameh of delaying the presentation of the required documents to the auditing company, in order to prevent the exposure of violations committed by Salameh.
However, the governor of the Banque du Liban stresses that banking secrecy laws prevent him from submitting the accounts requested by the auditing firm, except in the presence of an exceptional law promulgated by Parliament.
The failure of the criminal audit of the Central Bank’s accounts would delay the implementation of the reforms demanded by international donors, in exchange for providing financial support to the Lebanese government in order to overcome the economic crisis in the country.
Lebanon has been suffering for months, an economic crisis that is the worst since the end of the civil war, in addition to severe political polarization, in a scene in which the interests of regional and Western countries are clashing, and protests emerge from time to time demanding accountability for the corrupt and the ruling class.
The head of the caretaker government, Hassan Diab, said last Friday that corruption “won a new round”, in response to the announcement by the international auditing firm that it had withdrawn from auditing the Bank of Lebanon’s accounts.
On November 3, Diab demanded that the Central Bank hand over all documents to the auditing company, considering that “any attempt to obstruct the audit is classified as a partnership in responsibility for causing the suffering of the Lebanese on the financial, economic and living levels.”