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Hezbollah Avoids US Sanctions… Electorally

Hezbollah Avoids US Sanctions… Electorally

Saturday, 24 February, 2018 - 08:30
A Lebanese election official counts ballots after the polling station closed during Beirut's municipal elections in Lebanon, May 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
Beirut - Nazeer Rida
A clause in Lebanon’s new electoral law allowed Hezbollah to circumvent US financial sanctions that ban the party from opening bank accounts.
 
US financial sanctions prohibit Lebanese banks from opening accounts for people linked to Hezbollah, although the party’s deputies in Parliament have accounts in Lebanese pounds, to which their salaries are transferred.
 
The sixth paragraph of the electoral law’s Article 59 provides a solution to the candidacy of persons who are unable to open bank accounts or are on the sanctions lists.
 
It states that when it is impossible to open a bank account by any candidate or electoral list for reasons beyond the control of either of them, “the funds allocated to the electoral campaign of the candidate or the list shall be deposited in a public fund established by the Ministry of Finance.”
 
Article 59 of the electoral law requires candidates and lists to “open an account in a bank operating in Lebanon under the name of ‘the electoral campaign account’ and attach a statement from the bank confirming the opening of the account mentioned therein and showing the account number and the name of the owner. The electoral campaign account shall not be subject to bank secrecy.”
 
Well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the creation of such fund was a means to circumvent the US sanctions, adding that legislators, who contributed to the drafting of the electoral law, “have noted this dilemma and avoided the US sanctions by devising a new mechanism that allowed candidates to submit their candidacy and deposit money in a fund that has nothing to do with Lebanese banks.”
 
On Monday, Hezbollah announced the candidacy of 10 of its members, featuring five new figures, to run for the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for May 6.
 
While legislators found a loophole to solve the dilemma facing “Hezbollah” candidates, they failed to consider another problem that would challenge the work of the election supervisory body, which will be represented by the inability to verify the electoral spending of these candidates, since the law states in paragraph 60 that the spending process “must always fall under a banking process (transfers, checks, credit cards...).”
 
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Dr. Paul Morcos, the head of Justicia legal organization, said that the sixth article of paragraph 59 of the law, did not exist in the first draft of the law, and was created to solve the dilemma of nominating people who are unable to open bank accounts.
 
“The draft-law was not initially set to include such addendum, which allows some candidates who may fall under US sanctions to open or use a direct account with the Ministry of Finance,” Morcos remarked.

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