LAW NO. 318 FIGHTING MONEY LAUNDERING [Extract from the Official Gazette-Number 20-April 26, 2001]

The Parliament has adopted, and

The President of the Republic is promulgating the text of the following Law:

Article 1

Under the provisions of this Law, illicit funds are to be understood as any asset resulting from any of the following offences:

  • The growing, manufacturing, or trading of narcotics.
  • Acts committed by associations of wrongdoers, that are specified by Articles 335 and 336 of the Criminal Code, and internationally identified as organized crime.
  • Terrorist acts, as specified in Articles 314, 315 and 316 of the Criminal Code.
  • Illegal arm trade.
  • The offences of stealing or embezzling public or private funds or their appropriation by fraudulent means, and which are punishable under Lebanese law by a criminal penalty.
  • Counterfeiting money or official documents.

Article 2
Money laundering is any act committed with the purpose of:

  • Concealing the real source of illicit funds, or giving, by any means, a false statement about the said source.
  • Transferring or substituting funds known to be illegal for the purpose of concealing or disguising their source, or helping a person involved in the offence to dodge responsibility.
  • Acquiring, holding or using illicit funds, or investing such funds in purchasing movable or immovable assets, or in carrying out financial operations, while being aware of the illicit nature of these funds.

Article 3

Any person who undertakes money-laundering operations, or intervenes or participates in such operations, shall be punishable by imprisonment for a period of three to seven years, and by a fine of no less than twenty million Lebanese pounds

Article 4

Institutions not subjected to the provisions of the Banking Secrecy Law of September 3, 1956, including individual institutions, namely exchange offices, financial intermediation companies, leasing companies, mutual funds, insurance companies, as well as companies promoting, building and selling real estate, and merchants dealing with high-value commodities (jewelry, precious stones, gold, art collections, antiques) must keep special records for operations that exceed an amount to be determined by the Banque du Liban in the regulations to be set out under Article 5 of this Law.
They must also ascertain, through official documents, the identity and address of each client, and must keep, for a period of no less than five years, photocopies of these documents, as well as photocopies of the operation-related documents.

Article 5

Institutions subjected to the provisions of the Banking Secrecy Law of September 3, 1956 must control their operations with clients, in order to avoid involvement in what may conceal money laundering operations resulting from any of the offences specified by this Law.
Within one month from the enforcement of this Law, the Banque du Liban shall establish and publish regulations setting out the rules of such control, including, as a minimum, the following obligations to be met by banks and financial institutions:

  • To ascertain the true identity of their permanent clients and that of the beneficial owner, when operations are carried out through proxies, through figureheads acting for individuals, institutions or companies, or through numbered accounts.
  • To apply the same identity verification process to transient clients, when the value of the requested operation or series of operations exceeds a specified amount.
  • To keep, at least for a five-year period after completing the operations or closing the accounts, photocopies of all operation-related documents, as well as photocopies of official documents about the identity of operators.
  • To identify signals revealing the existence of money-laundering operations, and set out the principles of due diligence that could detect suspicious operations.
  • To refrain from delivering incorrect statements that aim at misleading administrative or judicial authorities.
  • To ensure that their auditors monitor the implementation of regulations to be set out under this Article, and that they report any violation to the Governor of the Banque du Liban.

Article 6

  • An independent, legal entity with judicial status shall be established at the Banque du Liban, and shall discharge its duties without being under the authority of the Banque du Liban. Its mandate is to investigate money-laundering operations, and to monitor compliance with the rules and procedures stipulated by this Law. It will be named hereafter “the Special Investigation Commission” or “the Commission”.
  • The Special Investigation Commission shall consist of:

    The Governor of the Banque du Liban or, in case of impediment, one of the Vice-Governors designated by him. Chairman
    The President of the Banking Control Commission or, in case of impediment, a member of the Commission designated by him. Member
    The judge appointed to the Higher Banking Commission or, in case of impediment, the alternate judge appointed by the Higher Judicial Council for a period equal to the term of the judge. Member
    A member and his/her alternate, recommended by the Governor of the Banque du Liban and appointed by the Council of Ministers. Member
  • The Special Investigation Commission The Special Investigation Commission shall appoint a full-time Secretary, who shall be responsible for the tasks assigned to him by the Commission, and for implementing its decisions. The Secretary shall directly supervise a special body of auditors designated by the Commission for the purpose of controlling and verifying the implementation of the obligations mentioned in the said law. The said control shall be done on a continuous basis. And none of these shall be bound by the provisions of the Banking Secrecy Law of September 3, 1956.

  • The mission of the Special Investigation Commission is to investigate operations that are suspected to be money-laundering offences, and to decide on the seriousness of evidence and circumstantial evidence related to any such offence or offences.

    When accounts opened at banks or financial institutions are suspected to have been used for money-laundering purposes, the lifting of banking secrecy provisions to the benefit of the competent judicial authorities and the Higher Banking Commission represented by its Chairman, shall be the exclusive right of the Commission.

  • The Commission The Commission is convened by its chairman. It shall meet, at least, twice a month and as needed. The legal quorum requires the presence of three members at least.

  • The Commission The Commission shall take its decisions at a majority of the attending members. In case of a tie, the Chairman shall have a deciding vote.

  • The Commission The Commission shall establish, within one month from the enforcement of this Law, its own functioning rules and regulations governing its regular and contractual staff who are subjected to private law, namely the obligation of confidentiality.

In the framework of the budget prepared by the Commission and approved by the Central Council of the Banque du Liban, the expenses of the Commission and of its ancillary bodies shall be borne by the Banque du Liban.

Article 7

  • The concerned parties referred to in Articles 4 and 5 of this Law must immediately report to the Commission the details of operations they suspect to be concealing money laundering.
  • In discharging their duties, the auditors of the Banking Control Commission must, through their Chairman, report to the Commission any operations they suspect to be concealing money-laundering operations.

Article 8

  • Upon receiving information from the concerned parties mentioned in Article 7, or from official Lebanese or foreign authorities, the Commission shall convene immediately to consider the case.
  • After perusing the received information, the Commission shall, within a period of three working days, take a temporary decision to freeze the suspected account (s) for a one-time renewable period of five working days, when the source of funds remains unknown or suspected to proceed from a money-laundering offence. During the said period, the Commission shall continue the investigation of the suspected account (s) either directly or through a delegated member of the Commission or a designated concerned responsible, or through its Secretary or an appointed bank auditor. All designated persons shall discharge their duties under the obligation of confidentiality, but without being bound by the provisions of the Banking Secrecy Law of September 3, 1956.
  • After completing its investigations, the Commission shall take, during the temporary freezing period of the suspected account (s), a final decision on whether to free the said account (s) if the source of funds is not found to be illicit, or to lift banking secrecy regarding the account (s) and maintain the freezing. If, at the end of the period stipulated in Paragraph 2 above, the Commission does not render any decision, the said account (s) shall be automatically deemed free. The final decision of the Commission is not subject to any ordinary or extraordinary form of administrative or judicial recourse, including recourse against abuse of authority.
  • In case of a decision on lifting banking secrecy, the Commission shall send a certified copy of its justified, final decision to the State Prosecutor of the Supreme Court, the Higher Banking Commission through its Chairman, the concerned party, the concerned bank, and the concerned foreign authority. This shall be effected either directly or through the official party through which the information has been received.

Article 9

The Chairman of the Commission or his/her directly designated delegate may communicate with any Lebanese or foreign judicial, administrative, financial, or security authority, in order to request information or know the details of previous investigations that are linked or related to ongoing investigations by the Commission. And the Lebanese authorities must immediately respond to such an information request.

Article 10

The Commission The Commission shall establish a central system named the Financial Investigation Administrative Unit, which will function as the competent authority and the official center for monitoring, collecting and archiving information on money-laundering offences, and for exchanging information with foreign counterparts.

The Financial Investigation Administrative Unit The Financial Investigation Administrative Unit shall periodically provide the Commission with all available information on money-laundering offences.

The Commission The Commission shall determine the number of the members of this Unit, their functions and their compensation. When necessary, it shall take statutory disciplinary measures, including termination of employment in case of breach of duty, without precluding the possibility of civil or criminal prosecution. All these persons shall be submitted to the same obligations that bind the members of the Commission, especially the obligation of confidentiality.

Article 11

Except for a decision by the Commission to lift banking secrecy, the reporting obligation stipulated by the present Law is absolutely confidential. This absolute confidentiality shall apply to any reporting, natural or moral person, as well as to the documents submitted for this purpose, and to the documents and procedures related to each stage of the investigation.

Article 12

Within the scope of their duties under the provisions of this Law, the Chairman and members of the Commission, and the Commission’s staff and delegates, shall enjoy immunity. In consequence, they may not be prosecuted or sued, neither collectively nor individually, for any civil or criminal liability related to the discharging of their duties, including offences specified by the Banking Secrecy Law of September 3, 1956, except when any of them discloses banking secrecy.
In discharging their duties under the provisions of this Law, or according to the decisions of the Commission, the bank and its staff shall enjoy the same immunity.

Article 13

Any person who violates the provisions of Article 4, 5, 7 and 11 of this Law shall be punishable by imprisonment for a period of two months to one year and a fine not exceeding ten million Lebanese pounds, or by either penalty.

Article 14

The State shall confiscate any movable or immovable assets that are proved, by a final court ruling, to be related to, or proceeding from, offences listed in Article 1 of this Law, unless the owners of the said assets prove in court their legal rights thereupon.

Article 15

The reservations specified in Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 of Article 1 of Law No. 426 of May 15, 1995, related to the ratification of the 1988 United Nations Convention on Fighting Illegal Trade of Narcotics and Psychotropic Drugs, are repealed, as well as the provisions of Article 132 of Law 673 of March 16, 1998, on Narcotics, Psychotropic Drugs and their Raw Materials.

Article 16

Upon entry into force of this Law, any legal provision that is contrary to, or inconsistent with its provisions, especially those specified in the Banking Secrecy Law of September 3, 1956, and those of Law 673 of March 16, 1998, on Narcotics, Psychotropic Drugs and their Raw Materials, shall cease to be operative.

Article 17

This Law shall enter into force on its publication date in the Official Gazette.

Babda, April 20, þ2001
Signed Emile Lahoud
Promulgated by the President of the Republic
The President of the Council of Ministers
Signed Rafic Hariri
The President of the Council of Ministers
Signed Rafic Hariri