Lebanon charges banker, money changers in currency crisis probe

the local currency has plummeted from 1,507 to more than 4,000 pounds to the dollar. (AP)
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Updated 22 May 2020

Lebanon charges banker, money changers in currency crisis probe

  • Nine people in total faced the same charges

BEIRUT: A Lebanese prosecutor charged a bank manager and money changers with manipulating the exchange rate and money laundering on Thursday in an currency crisis probe, official sources said.

Lebanon is in the midst of its worst economic crunch in decades, compounded by a coronavirus lockdown.

Banks have gradually stopped all dollar withdrawals in recent months, and the local currency has plummeted from 1,507 to more than 4,000 pounds to the dollar on the black market.

“Financial prosecutor Ali Ibrahim charged the deputy head of the money changers’ union Elie S., as well as a number of senior money changers ... and a bank employee, with the crimes of violating the money changing law and money laundering,” among other charges, the National News Agency said.

Their cases have been referred to an investigative judge, it said.

Judicial sources told AFP nine people in total faced the same charges, also including “manipulating the exchange rate.”

Lebanon has detained dozens of foreign exchange office employees recently over the fast depreciating pound, including the head of the money changers’ union Mahmoud Mrad at the start of the month.


European bank ramps up stimulus package

Updated 05 June 2020

European bank ramps up stimulus package

FRANKFURT: The European Central Bank approved a bigger-than-expected expansion of its stimulus package on Thursday to prop up an economy plunged by the coronavirus pandemic into its worst recession since World War II.

Just months after a first raft of crisis measures, the ECB said it would raise bond purchases by €600 billion ($674 billion) to €1.35 trillion and that purchases would run at least until end-June 2021, six months longer than first planned.

It also said it would reinvest proceeds from maturing bonds in its pandemic emergency purchase scheme at least until the end of 2022.

ECB President Christine Lagarde scotched speculation that the bank could follow the US Federal Reserve in buying sub-investment grade bonds, saying that option was not discussed by policymakers.

The announcement, which comes just weeks after Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled that the ECB had already been exceeding its mandate with a longstanding asset purchase program, prompted a rally in the euro and bond markets.

“Today’s easing measures were another illustration that the ECB means business and stands ready to do whatever is necessary to help the euro area survive the corona crisis in one piece. The ECB will do its part, and it hopes the governments will do their part,” Nordea analysts said in a note.

The bank dramatically revised downward its baseline scenario for euro zone output this year to a contraction of 8.7 percent from the modest 0.8 percent rise it had forecast only in March.

“The euro area economy is experiencing an unprecedented contraction. There has been an abrupt drop in economic activity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the measures taken to contain it,” Lagarde said.

She said she was confident that a “good solution” could be found on the legal stand-off with Germany’s top court.