July 02 2012
In the absence of a bilateral treaty on mutual judicial assistance in criminal matters between France and Lebanon, several unresolved issues remained with regard to the applicability of banking confidentiality in financial offences (eg, swindling, misuse of corporate assets or breach of trust).
On January 21 2010 France and Lebanon signed the Mutual Assistance Convention, which marks a significant development in the criminal arena. The convention asserts that the notion of banking confidentially cannot be upheld in cases of financial crime. The agreement was enacted by Law 2012-316 of March 7 2012.
France and Lebanon have agreed to provide mutual judicial assistance "in the widest sense possible" to allow either jurisdiction, within the framework of criminal proceedings, to collect evidence that is in the possession of the other state that would be useful for the purposes of advancing an investigation.
The convention governs the sensitive subject of requests for banking information by asserting that the required party:
"supplies, as soon as possible, all the information concerning the accounts of all kinds, held or controlled, in an any bank situated on its territories, by a natural or legal entity being the object of a criminal investigation by the requesting party".
The agreement also provides for:
Furthermore, it affords either state which considers a personal appearance in an investigation by a witness or an expert to be necessary the opportunity to inform the required state about such a person, and allows them to compel this witness or expert to appear. A hearing can then be conducted by the requesting state via video conference.
However, a request for mutual judicial assistance can be refused if:
If a request relates to a tax offence committed by the required party, it cannot be refused under the agreement.
The convention is a major advance in cooperation on criminal matters between France and Lebanon, however, it will have to be fulfilled by other bilateral means. No extradition treaty on the transfer of convicted persons yet exists between the two countries; such a treaty would finalise the implementation of this new system as prescribed in the convention.
For further information on this topic please contact Philippe Blaquier-Cirelli at DLA Piper by telephone (+33 01 40 15 24 84), fax (+33 01 40 15 24 03) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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