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Lebanon caretaker PM urges central bank to provide all info for audit

BEIRUT, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab called on the central bank to provide restructuring consultancy Alvarez & Marsal with all the information requested for a forensic audit, warning against any attempt to scupper the process.

Lebanon is grappling with a financial meltdown that has crashed the currency, paralysed banks and prompted a sovereign default. It hired the turnaround specialist this year to audit the central bank - a key demand of the International Monetary Fund and foreign donors which have pressed the indebted state to tackle waste and corruption.

Diab said in a statement on Tuesday that Banque du Liban (BDL) had only provided the firm with 42% of the documents requested and criticised it for citing Lebanese legislation and banking secrecy as a justification.

“Any reform not based on the forensic audit of the central bank would only be symbolic reform to cover up the continued approach that brought the country to this state,” Diab said.

“I warn against any attempt to subvert the forensic audit to prevent Lebanese from knowing the truth behind the disappearance of their savings,” he added.

A central bank spokesman said in response to a Reuters request for comment that the BDL central board would meet on Wednesday to “discuss the different opinions” stated by local politicians.

He said the central bank had handed its own accounts to the forensic auditors via the finance ministry.

Sources last month told Reuters that a team from Alvarez & Marsal which visited Beirut in October did not receive all the information requested from the central bank.

A BDL spokesman had said then that the bank had provided all its accounts for the audit, but “cannot provide the accounts of its clients, by law not by choice”. He added that the audit contract was subject to Lebanese law, so it was “no surprise” that some information could not be disclosed. (Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Pravin Char)

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