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Lebanon transferred Saddam’s billions to US, clarifies top banker

Published: Updated:

The head of Lebanon’s Association of Banks, Joseph Torbey, revealed in a press conference on Thursday, that the Lebanese Authority transferred to the United States in the wake of its occupation of Iraq in 2003, the money deposited in Lebanese banks under the name of late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein or that under his regime.

Torbey’s revelation came in reply to a question regarding rumors about “very huge deposits” by Saddam Hussein’s regime in some of the Lebanese banks.

But the veteran Banker confirmed that “these deposits were sent to the United States Federal Reserve from the Iraqi Central Bank under the supervision of the legal military authority in Iraq and Lebanon’s Central Bank, and therefore there was no secrets or smokescreen around this subject.”

Torbey stressed that banking system does not deprive the rightful owners of their deposits , adding that “the current Iraqi regime is the heir to the former regime.”

Torbey’s comments came after the turbulence caused by an organized crime network operating between Iraq and Beirut claiming to have documents giving them access to accounts with billions of dollars, which actually belong to people who passed away or disappeared, and was registered under their names since 1999.

The members of the network published their names in Iraqi media claiming ownership of documents under their names and others who passed away, with access to billions of dollars deposited in Lebanese banks.

This claims caused uproar in Lebanon for almost two weeks, especially as the news affected important and well-known banks, which demanded that Major General Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s General Security, travel to Baghdad to solve the issue.

After the visit, the Iraqi Intelligence issued a statement saying that they uncovered the network and arrested a number of suspects.

Last Tuesday, Major General Abbas Ibrahim announced that a joint operations with the Iraqi authorities resulted in the discovery of the criminal network based in Iraq, targeting the Lebanese banking sector and trying to extort money from the bank.

He said this operation prevented a $1 billion fraud scam, stressing in statements to the media the need to know who was behind this gang , “especially since the losses of the banking sector, because of these rumors, may reach one billion dollars.”

He also revealed that the arrested were Iraqis.

This case goes back more than a year, but it surfaced again in the past two weeks following a campaign of accusations and rumors on social media by the criminal network against some prestigious Lebanese banks.