Lebanese dollars and fuel to Syria.. This is how they are smuggled

Talk has returned in Lebanon about smuggling to Syria with the collapse of the Syrian pound against the dollar and the suffering of many Syrian villages and cities from the scarcity of oil derivatives, whose prices have risen dramatically.

However, what is remarkable about the talk about the return of smuggling is the Banque du Liban’s clear announcement a few days ago, “that the rise in the exchange rate of the US dollar during the festive period is a result of speculative operations and smuggling of dollars outside the borders.”

Although the statement did not explicitly name Syria, press reports raised in recent days the issue of dollar smuggling from Lebanon to Syria in the context of refuting the reasons for the insane rise in the exchange rate of the dollar on the black market during the festive period, by crossing the threshold of 47 thousand pounds.

The former deputy governor of the Banque du Liban, Muhammad Baasiri, told Al-Arabiya.net, “What is meant by smuggling the dollar to Syria is that Syrian merchants went to the Chtaura region in the Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border, carrying large quantities of Syrian currency to exchange it for dollars.”

He explained, “Each US dollar today equals about 7,000 Syrian pounds, so the Syrian merchant comes and offers the Lebanese money changer in the Chtoura region to buy the Syrian pound at a lower cost, after which the money changer sells it to Syrian workers in Lebanon at a higher price.”

Baasiri pointed out that “Syria is subject to an economic blockade, and therefore Lebanon is geographically closest to it in order to obtain dollars. Therefore, the Lebanese economy has finally become ‘financing’ part of the Syrian economy.”

Dollar smuggling by cars

According to informed sources who spoke to Al-Arabiya.net, “the story of dollar ‘smuggling’ to Syria is not confined to the Chtoura region in the Bekaa Valley, which includes a large number of money-changers, most of whom are affiliated with Hezbollah. It also includes Lebanese border areas in northern Lebanon, where they are active.” “Smuggling” the dollar in large quantities into the Syrian interior.

The sources were satisfied with saying, “Amounts of dollars are transferred from Lebanon to Syria through the border crossings in northern Lebanon, by private cars with darkened windows that are not subject to inspection, and their owners have obtained “facilitations” for entry and exit.

Central Bank of Lebanon (archive from France Press)

Central Bank of Lebanon (archive from France Press)

Syrian pounds in Lebanon

For his part, the former head of the Banking Control Commission, Samir Hammoud, told Al-Arabiya.net that “the main question in this matter is why is there a ‘demand’ to buy the Syrian currency in Lebanon? Simply because there are thousands of Syrians in Lebanon who buy the Syrian pound from Lebanon to send them to their families in Syria.

The representative of the Progressive Socialist Party, Hadi Abu Al-Hassan, was the first to raise the talk about “smuggling” the dollar outside the borders. He said on his Twitter account: “The dollar is being smuggled into Syria by smuggling gangs, and its price has skyrocketed without controls. Instead of being distracted by political disputes and judicial fabrications, do your duties by pursuing these gangs and stop them.”

He told Al-Arabiya.net: “A large bag loaded with dollars finally left the Chtaura market for money changers towards Syria, which eyewitnesses told us.”

He added, “There are Lebanese money changers who buy the Syrian currency at a low price and sell it later at double the price. They also buy smuggled goods from Syria (poultry and vegetables…) in dollars to compete with local industries.”

Wasting 20 billion dollars of reserves

Abu Al-Hassan indicated, “In the last three years, we wasted 20 billion dollars from the reserves of the Banque du Liban to support goods and commodities that were smuggled into Syria. Today, as a result of the deepening crisis afflicting Syria and as a result of the blockade, the need for hard currency has increased, so resorting to the Lebanese market to obtain dollars despite The Lebanese need it.

In parallel with the talk about “smuggling” the dollar, the phenomenon of smuggling fuel to Syria regained its momentum, with the gasoline plate reaching the limits of 44 dollars, compared to 19 dollars per plate in Lebanon, as a result of the rise of the dollar against the Syrian pound from 4,500 to about 700 Syrian pounds.

A member of the Syndicate of Station Owners, Georges Al-Barakis, told Al-Arabiya.net: “The price of a can of diesel fuel in Syria is $38 compared to $18 in Lebanon, while the price of a can of gasoline in Syria is about $46 compared to $19 in Lebanon, which means that smugglers They make big profits.”

He added, “According to our information, the amount of fuel smuggling from Lebanon to Syria is not large yet, and it has become active again in the last two weeks.”

For his part, one of the citizens who visits Syria on a weekly basis told Al-Arabiya.net: “Between the Lebanese factory point and the Syrian border, Lebanese cars are lined up on both sides of the roads to sell gallons of petrol and diesel.”

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