Bank holdups snowball in Lebanon as depositors demand their money

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  • Five more depositors barred banks to access their money
  • Depositors withdrew $60,000 in cash, only some in custody
  • Banks announced a three-day shutdown for security reasons
  • Frustration over frozen savings, growing crisis

BEIRUT, Sep 16 (Reuters) – Five Lebanese banks were blocked by depositors demanding access to their own money frozen in the banking system on Friday, in a spiral of holdups this week over a financial impact There was no end to the despair. ,

Seven banks have been frozen since Wednesday in Lebanon, where commercial banks have forced most depositors out of their savings since an economic crisis three years ago, leaving most of the population unable to pay basics.

The bank told Reuters that on Friday morning, an armed man identified as Abed Soubra demanded his deposit at BLOM Bank in the capital’s Tariq Jadeedeh neighborhood.

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He later handed over his gun to security forces, but remained locked in the bank after sunset, negotiating with bank officials to withdraw $300,000 in cash in his savings, he told Reuters.

Local media reported that Soura eventually left the bank without money as part of a settlement made by an influential sheikh. He was not taken into custody.

Throughout the day, he was cheered by a large crowd of people gathered outside, including Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein, who held a hold-up in August to get his deposits from his bank, which dropped the charges against him.

“We will keep seeing this happen as long as people have money. What do you want them to do? They don’t have any other solution,” Hussain said.

Banks are ‘worth my shoes’

The Depositors’ Union, an advocacy group set up to help customers gain access to their funds, described Friday’s hold-up spree as a “depositor’s revolt” and a “natural and appropriate response” to banks’ sanctions. described.

Lebanon’s banks union announced a three-day shutdown next week over security concerns and urged the government to pass legislation to deal with the crisis.

Officials have been slow to pass reforms that would provide access to $3 billion from the International Monetary Fund, and on Friday failed to pass the 2022 budget.

Without capital control legislation, banks have unilaterally imposed limits on what most depositors can receive each week in the US dollar or Lebanese lira, which has lost more than 95% of its value since 2019.

Four other hold-ups on Friday ended in partial payments, with a total of $60,000 in cash given to the attackers, most of whom were arrested, while one went into hiding.

Jawad Slim broke into a branch of LGB Bank in Beirut’s Ramlet al-Baida area on Friday morning.

His brother told local media that by the end of the night, he had agreed to leave the bank with a check for $15,000 and $35,000, which he could redeem if he had a haircut.

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

Separately, Lebanese national Mohamed al-Mousawi received $20,000 in cash from his account at the Banque Libano-Fran├žaise bank after threatening employees with fake guns.

“This banking system is deceiving us and it’s worth my shoes,” he told Reuters, adding that he would go into hiding. The BLF confirmed the incident.

In the fifth incident on Friday afternoon, a former military member received $25,000 in cash from his account at a BankMed branch outside Beirut after he opened fire inside the branch and threatened to commit suicide if the full amount was not received, an industry source said. told Reuters.

The source said the man handed over the money to his mother and was later taken into custody by the security forces.

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Reporting by Taimur Azhari, Laila Bassam and Issam Abdullah; Written by Maya Gabeli; Editing by Mark Heinrich, William McLean, Toby Chopra and Richard Chang

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principals.

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