Bank holdups snowball in Lebanon as depositors demand their own money

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  • Five more savers stop banks from accessing their money
  • Depositors Redeem $60,000, Just Some in Custody
  • Banks announced three-day shutdown due to security concerns
  • Frustration over frozen savings, rising crisis

BEIRUT, Sept. 16 (Reuters) – Five Lebanese banks were held up on Friday by depositors seeking access to their own money frozen in the banking system. .

Seven banks have been shut down since Wednesday in Lebanon, where commercial banks have shut most depositors out of their savings since an economic crisis erupted three years ago that left much of the population unable to pay the basics.

On Friday morning, an armed man identified as Abed Soubra entered BLOM Bank in the capital’s Tariq Jdideh neighborhood and demanded his deposit, the bank told Reuters.

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He later gave his gun to security forces but remained locked in the bank until sundown, negotiating with bank officials to withdraw his $300,000 in cash savings, he told Reuters.

Soubra eventually left the bank cashless as part of a settlement negotiated by an influential sheikh, local media reported. He was not taken into custody.

Throughout the day, he was cheered by a large crowd gathered outside, including Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein, who staged a robbery to get his own deposits from his bank in August, dropping charges against him.

“We will continue to see this happen as long as people have money coming in. What do you want them to do? They have no other solution,” Hussein said.

BANKS ARE ‘WORTH MY SHOE’

The Depositors’ Union, an advocacy group formed to help customers access their funds, described Friday’s robbery as “depositors’ revolt” and a “natural and justified response” to banks’ restrictions.

The Lebanese banking association announced a three-day shutdown next week due to security concerns and urged the government to pass laws to deal with the crisis.

Authorities have been slow to implement reforms that would give access to $3 billion from the International Monetary Fund, failing to approve a 2022 budget on Friday.

Without a capital controls law, banks have imposed unilateral limits on what most savers can withdraw each week in US dollars or the Lebanese lira, which has lost more than 95% of its value since 2019.

The four other robberies on Friday ended in partial payouts totaling $60,000 in cash to the attackers, most of whom were arrested while one went into hiding.

Jawad Slim entered a branch of LGB Bank in the Ramlet al-Bayda neighborhood of Beirut on Friday morning.

By nightfall, he agreed with the bank to leave with $15,000 in U.S. dollars and a $35,000 check to cash at a haircut, his brother told local media.

Security forces took him into custody, but it was not immediately clear what charges would be brought.

Separately, Lebanese citizen Mohammad al-Moussawi was charged $20,000 in cash from his account at the Banque Libano-Francaise bank after threatening employees with a fake gun.

“This banking system is cheating us and it’s worth my shoe,” he told Reuters he would go into hiding. BLF confirmed the incident took place.

In the fifth incident on Friday afternoon, a former military man was charged $25,000 in cash from his account at a BankMed branch outside Beirut after he fired shots at the branch and threatened to kill himself if he didn’t get the full amount. a source told Reuters.

The source said the man handed over the money to his mother and was subsequently detained by security forces.

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Reporting by Timour Azhari, Laila Bassam and Issam Abdallah; Writing by Maya Gebeily; Editing by Mark Heinrich, William Maclean, Toby Chopra and Richard Chang

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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