Lebanese justice pledges to prosecute exchange rate manipulators


The Lebanese specter of legal and security lawsuits against currency traders has broadened widely over the past week, with reports indicating that around 60 money changers are accused of manipulating the price of the dollar.

Lebanese financial prosecutor Judge Ali Ibrahim last Thursday arrested Mahmoud Murad, head of the Money Changers Union, and his brother, Yehya, for manipulating the dollar for financial gain and exchanging money illegally.

The two men were then transferred to the first examining magistrate for questioning.

The case spread in the last hours after the summons of Michel Mecattaf, shareholder of a Lebanese company which ships banknotes from abroad to Lebanon.

Mecattaf was questioned about two cases related to the dollar exchange rate. He first appeared before the Beirut Judicial Section and then before the Beirut Southern Suburbs Section (Dahiyeh) on suspects of having a business relationship with Murad.

After being questioned, Mecattaf was released on bail.

Informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the problem “has become extremely complex and requires swift action to contain the falling dollar on the black market and its repercussions on the insane rise in meat prices. and food products “.

The source said justice believes Murad and his brother are primarily responsible for the slip.

Last week, the US dollar on the Lebanese foreign exchange market hit 4,300 Lebanese pounds (LBP), a figure unprecedented since the end of the civil war almost 30 years ago.

Since last October, when commercial banks gradually reduced the amount of dollars customers can withdraw, the Lebanese have relied on currency traders to secure the necessary liquidity in dollars.

There are only 305 exchange offices affiliated with the union, while between 200 and 300 others work without a license.

Judicial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the arrest of the currency traders is based on investigations proving their involvement in the manipulation of the dollar.

They said several traders were released after signing a pledge to abide by central bank circulars to set the exchange rate at 3,200 pounds to $ 1.

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