Prime Minister Saad Hariri chaired Wednesday afternoon at the Grand Serail a meeting that was attended by the Minister of Interior Raya Hassan, the Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil, the Minister of Defense Elias Bou Saab, Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, the General Director of General Security Major General Abbas Ibrahim, the Director General of the Internal Security Forces Major General Imad Osman, the Director General of State Security Major General Tony Saliba, the Secretary General of the Higher Defense Council Major General Mahmoud al-Asmar, the President of the Supreme Council of Customs Brigadier General Asaad Tufaili, the Director General of Customs Badri Daher and a number of senior officers. Discussions tackled the issue of smuggling at the borders and measure no. 3.
After the meeting, Bou Saab said: "All the security services that were present today agreed that the number of illegal crossings that we have to work on is between 8 and 12. So we can no longer talk about 140 or 150 illegal crossings because this is misleading the public opinion and today the issue was resolved.
We also discussed the measures that should be taken at these crossings. There is work that must be done by the Ministry of Defense, the Army Command, the Ministry of Interior, the Information Division, the Ministry of Finance, the Customs and the General Security, because stopping smuggling is not limited to borders. The army's task, for example, is to close the borders, not to pursue the smugglers inside Lebanon, which is the duty of the customs.
The positive thing that Prime Minister Hariri did today is to bring all the parties together, and we agreed to take joint action. It was also proposed to set up a center to collect information about the crossings, the materials being smuggled through them and the quantities, and determine their final destination, and here comes the role of the customs. The Minister of Interior stressed the necessity of pursuing these parties and fining them, and the Minister of Finance suggested to prosecute and arrest the people who have become known in this context. This joint action will lead to better results, knowing that smuggling takes place through legitimate crossings as well."
He added: "There was also a consensus that the vast majority of smuggled goods come through legitimate crossings. So these crossings must be addressed by controlling corruption, holding smugglers accountable and prosecuting smuggling companies, and citizens involved, whether they are security agencies or others. If the members of the security services are found to have assisted, informed or facilitated the smuggling operations, they will be prosecuted. The security services have unanimously decided to remove the cover from anyone in this matter."
Bou Saab said: "Prime Minister Hariri stressed the need for cooperation among all of us, and the Director General of Customs pointed out that since three months, people have started to feel that there are more serious pursuits than before.
35 percent of the cigarettes consumed is smuggled through the sea, and everyone knows that the customs duty on cigarettes is high. This deprives the Treasury of big revenues. Smuggling exists all over the world and cannot be completely controlled, but we will take the necessary measures against it even on illegal roads. The army has requirements to do this task, it needs capabilities, equipment, and an increase in the number of soldiers on the borders and the Lebanese will see serious measures in this regard. We also discussed measure no. 3 and agreed to hold a meeting between the ministers of interior and defense and all leaders of the security services within the next two days. We will also meet again with Prime Minister Hariri next Monday and prepare a perception of measure no. 3, and this has nothing to do with the next budget. The Minister of Finance informed us that no new item related to measure n 3 was included in the new draft budget, but we are committed to take certain steps in this matter and today we confirmed it."