Timour Azhari and Laila Bassam
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Five Lebanese banks were blocked by depositors on Friday seeking access to their own funds frozen in the banking system. The shelving this week was sparked by frustration with financial implosion.
A total of seven banks in Lebanon have been put on hold since Wednesday, and commercial banks have locked most savers out of savings, many unable to cover basic expenses since the economic crisis three years ago.
On Friday morning, an armed man identified as Abed Soubra entered the BLOM Bank bank in the capital’s Tariq Jdideh neighborhood to ask him for a deposit, the bank told Reuters.
“I’m going to be here for three, four, five days — I’m not going to move until I get my deposit,” he said.
Soubra said he rejected the bank’s offer from his $300,000 Proposals to take some of the savings out of sharp cuts and the deteriorating Lebanese local currency.
“I deposit money in dollars and I want to get them back in dollars,” he said.
Soubra was cheered by a large crowd gathered outside, including Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein, who carried out his first hijacking in August to Withdrawing his own deposits from his bank, the bank no longer charges him.
“As long as people have money, we’re going to continue to see this happening. What do you want them to do? They have no other solution,” said Hussein walking around $30, from his savings $38 ,.
Banks are “worthy of my shoes”
The Lebanese Banking Association announced A three-day shutdown next week due to mounting security concerns and calls on the government to pass the necessary laws to deal with the crisis.
The authorities have been slow to pass reforms that would allow them to get $3 billion from the government to the IMF to ease the crisis.
Among the pending laws is a capital control law that is still being debated in Parliament. In the absence of it, banks have imposed unilateral restrictions on most depositors, allowing them to withdraw a limited amount each week in dollars or Lebanese pounds.
The value of withdrawals in Lebanese pounds is getting lower and lower as the lira has lost more than 2019% of its value since 2019 and New lows near 50*), against USD this week.
Banks say they allow special withdrawals for humanitarian cases, including health care, but depositors say banks are not keeping their word.
In the first case on Friday, a man was able to retrieve some of the funds from the Ghazieh branch of Byblos Bank before he was arrested, sources said, adding that he was believed to hold Some weapons are toy.
Byblos Bank could not be immediately reached for comment.
In another incident, a man armed with a pellet gun entered an LGB Bank branch in Ramlet, Beirut. A bank employee said the al-Bayda area was seeking to withdraw some 30, dollar savings.
Then, Mohammad al-Moussawi threatened Banque Libano-Francaise with a fake gun and managed to get $20,20 to withdraw cash from his account, he said over the phone.
“This banking system is deceiving us and it’s worth my shoes,” he said, telling Reuters he would go into hiding.
BLF Bank told Reuters the incident “lasted five minutes” and no employees were injured.
In a fifth incident on Friday afternoon, a man opened fire inside a BankMed branch as he tried to use his savings, an industry source told Reuters.
Sources said the man was a member of the Lebanese security forces and there were no reports of injuries.
Friday’s incident followed two others on Wednesday in the Beirut capital and in the town of Ali, where depositors were able to take part of their funds by force, which was misused A toy pistol thought to be a real weapon.
The Lebanese Banking Association on Thursday urged authorities to hold accountable those who carried out “verbal and physical attacks” on banks, saying lenders themselves would not be lenient.