Lebanon's audit of gold completed 'successfully', says central bank

The measure is one of the reforms required by the IMF to unlock billions of dollars in loans

Riad Salameh, governor of Lebanon's Central Bank, where an audit of gold assets has been conducted. Reuters
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An audit of Lebanon's Central Bank's gold reserves has concluded after a two-year process interrupted by Covid-19 lockdowns.

The process was completed at the International Monetary Fund's request by a “specialised and professional international auditing firm”, the central bank said on Thursday in a statement.

The auditing firm, whose name was not disclosed, was selected by the Banque du Liban’s external supervisory commissioner, in agreement with the IMF, a press release said.

“It became clear to this company that the gold assets of the central bank (ingots and coins) correspond completely, in quantity and quality, to the entries recorded in the accounting records of the central bank," the press release said.

According to its latest figures, Banque du Liban's gold reserves were worth $16.4bn in mid-November 2022.

The long-awaited audit was one of the crucial reforms requested by the IMF to access $3 billion in loans to lift Lebanon out of the continuing financial crisis that has plunged almost three-quarters of its population into poverty.

In September, the IMF said Lebanon was making “very slow” progress to enact the requested reforms agreed under a preliminary agreement signed in April.

The measure came after authorities requested an inventory in March 2020 for the first time in at least three decades amid intense scrutiny over the central bank's financial losses.

The 2018 audited statements, which were leaked to the press, showed that Central Bank gold reserves were estimated at about $18 billion.

But auditors EY and Deloitte said they were unable to conduct in-person inventories to independently check the amount, which had caused suspicions among experts on the exact amount of gold inside the bank's vaults.

Updated: November 24, 2022, 5:39 PM