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My parents have funds in a Lebanese bank that they want to transfer to their US bank account. They are being told that there is a 35% fee on outgoing transfers from Lebanon. How can I find out if this is true? And/or is there a way around the fee?

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  • As with the recent question about something similar from Bangladesh, I suspect your best bet would be to talk to the specialists at a large commercial bank which does business in that part of the world. If it can be done in any plausibly legal way, they will know how.
    – keshlam
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 1:56
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    As an individual with family in Lebanon, I know they have resorted to other means for transferring significant amounts over time (ferry into Larnaca, then bring cash in person to a bank with reciprocity with American counterparts)
    – Matthew
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 18:25
  • you can try your luck with a bitcoin based provider like Circle.com which is backed by players such as former Goldman Sachs members and large VC firms in the US, a lot of people outside the US have been able to move funds to Circle.com and then transfer that to Coinbase.com which is connected to their US bank account. Didn't write this as an answer because there are more factors that could affect you and your mileage may vary. But, if you could acquire bitcoin in any way, you will be able to accomplish the same thing, within an hour. So you don't have to worry about the volatility
    – CQM
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 16:00

3 Answers 3

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The question is less about penalty and more about risks.

35% sounds pretty steep but consider an alternative like withdrawing money yourself and transporting it out of the country to be deposited in another bank. You likely can't drive it through Syria right now. South into Israel and you might encounter problems as well. Suitcase through the Hezbollah controlled airport? Ferry to Cyrpus? Each of these methods doesn't have a "fee" but includes more effort and risk.

Have you considered something like Western Union to the a recipient in the US? There is still a fee but it's less than 35%. The risk of carrying the cash between the bank and Western Union is still present but is likely less than carrying it out yourself.

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Wire transfer - Western Union can do this.

Traveling with a bag of cash or precious metals - Entering the USA with more than $10,000 USD of cash without paperwork will be a problem. Keep this limit in mind. There is also the danger that your cash might get lost or stolen.

Courier: See above for the risks.

Paypal - Does not operate in Lebanon

Square - If your parents get an account with www.square.com they can charge the amount to any Visa, Mastercard or Amex credit card for 3.5%. The credit card is then paid from the Lebanese bank account.

Bitcoin - Doesn't care what you are buying or where. Transfer your funds to Bitcoins (or other such crypto-currency), transfer to your agent inthe USA, they convert to USD. The exchange rates can be volatile so you may not send exactly as much as you thought you did.

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  • Paypal does not operate in Lebanon Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 8:38
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I find this unbelievable. You might want to substantiate it.

If true, 35% is not a "fee", it is a tax that constitutes a capital control. Capital controls are regulations designed to prevent or restrict monetary transfers into or out of a country. It is usually illegal to circumvent capital controls.

In most cases capital controls can be avoided buying a security such as a bond. For example, if you can buy US Treasury bonds, then you can go to another country and sell the bond in that country. In the event that registered bonds like US Treasuries are unavailable for some reason, many German companies issue bearer bonds that can be obtained through special brokers. If you buy a bearer bond, beware of fraud and verify from multiple, reliable sources that the bond is genuine. Don't just listen to the broker. Multiple, independent sources.

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