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Lebanon vs the money launderers

Abdul Hafiz Mansour, the head of Lebanon’s Special Investigation Commission, has a reputation as a tough adversary of financial crime. In a rare interview, he tells Euromoney why his unit is so effective, and why so much money laundering still goes unpunished.

Illustration: Pete Ellis

There are few topics Abdul Hafiz Mansour will not address, but ask him if his line of work regularly makes him the target of threats and he will likely fall silent. 

That should come as no surprise. As the head of Lebanon’s Special Investigation Commission (SIC), the country’s anti-money laundering unit, Mansour is seen as an enemy by those who have sought to use Lebanon’s financial institutions to hide illicit funds. Just last year, the SIC froze more than 60 bank accounts and investigated hundreds of suspicious transactions.

Asked again if he faces pressures because of his work, Mansour replies, evasively: “Sometimes the nature of the business puts you through situations.”

A stocky, austere man, Mansour meets Euromoney in early February, at a conference in Dubai dedicated to the fight against financial crime in the Middle East and north Africa.

As the head of the Middle East’s first anti-money laundering unit, he is well-known to the conference delegates: regulators, lawyers and bank compliance officers from across the region. The unit he leads is said to be the most powerful in the region. 

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