Lebanon Investigates Millions of Dollars Flown in from Turkey
The Lebanese judicial and security authorities intensified their investigations a day after they seized USD 9 million with Turkish and Syrian people coming to Lebanon on board two private planes.
Investigations focused on the source and the purpose of the funds, as detainees presented conflicting accounts, claiming that the money was intended for currency exchange activities, while concerns emerged about the use of the funds to instigate security incidents.
In a press statement, Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi announced the arrest of four people – two Turks and two Syrians - coming from Turkey on a private plane and carrying USD 4 million. They claimed that they were operating a money exchange company, he said.
“We don’t know whether these funds are for smuggling and dollar manipulation or to fuel violence in Lebanon,” Fahmi added.
He also pointed to “instructions arriving from Turkey through the WhatsApp application to some parties participating in the civil protests.”
Judicial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the detainees claimed that the funds were brought for the benefit of two large companies specialized in money transfers, one of them being owned by a well-known businessman.
But officials from the two companies, questioned by the authorities, denied that the money was intended to them, which raised suspicion over the real purpose of the funds.
The judicial sources revealed that the USD 9 million were brought in two separate batches, via two private planes from Turkey to Beirut.
The carriers of the funds claimed that they originated in the gold trade in Turkey, even though Turkish authorities bar the exit of cash money from their territories. This has reinforced fears that the money was intended to finance groups on Lebanese soil.
During the past two weeks, the security services arrested more than 20 people, who participated in riots in central Beirut and attacked commercial stores and public and private property.
Sources following up on the investigations stated that a number of the detainees “confessed to accepting some money to carry out such acts.” They reported that the funds were sent by a Lebanese person residing in Istanbul, Turkey.