Cheap Iranian steel flooding Lebanon
Local businessmen are pointing fingers at each other and Hezbollah, Iran’s main political ally in Lebanon, for facilitating the low-cost Iranian imports that have disrupted the local market.
Concerned traders quietly held a meeting with the economy minister to discuss the issue but all are reluctant to speak publically.
Two separate local steel traders told The National that between USD 9 million and USD 15million of steel was imported from Iran during the first three months of the year.
A local banker who asked to remain anonymous given the sensitivity of the topic said that traders find ways around sanctions by paying in cash or through local companies that serve as fronts and do not appear to have links with Iran.
Importing goods from Iran is not against Lebanese law, but paying for them through banks, including Lebanese institutions, could breach sanctions imposed against Iran by the United States.
Lebanese financial institutions are particularly wary of US rules given the now-defunct Lebanese Canadian Bank agreed to pay USD 102 million settlement in 2013 after being found facilitating payments to Hezbollah and money laundering.
The bank, at the time one of the largest in the country, shut up shop and sold viable assets to Societe Generale in Lebanon. ■