As security worries grow following waves of irate depositors storming banks around the nation demanding their funds, Lebanese banks will be closed for three days starting on Monday.
The closures were disclosed by the Association of Banks in Lebanon.
According to the National News Agency, interim Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi has requested an urgent gathering of the security forces to consider potential actions.
The board of directors decided to liquidate the banks after carefully weighing the risks, according to a statement from the banks’ association.
It condemned the acts, declared that it abhorred violence, and urged the government to swiftly implement legislation to deal with the economic crisis.
To deliberate on the following measures, the board will meet early the following week.
Depositors broke into and robbed banks continuously on Friday; at least four separate occurrences were reported.
It comes after two similar raids on Wednesday by depositors who wanted access to savings that had been locked by lenders that had implemented severe withdrawal limitations in light of the global crisis.
On Friday, one guy stormed a Byblos Bank location in the southern city of Ghazieh brandishing a fake gun and demanding his savings, and another entered a Blom Bank location in Beirut’s Tariq Al Jdideh neighborhood.
A third man approached an LGB Bank location in the Ramlet Al Baida neighborhood of Beirut, brandishing a pellet gun and asking to withdraw his $50,000 in savings.
Another allegedly attempted to illegally take his savings out of the Fransabank in Baaqrif.
People gathered outside the Blom Bank in Tariq Al Jdideh to support Abed Soubra as he sought his $125,000 in savings. Additionally, witnesses claimed that an elderly woman was inside and insisted on extracting her $1,200. The military and police were present.
Through his accomplice, Fadi, who was perched above the ATM, Mr. Soubra was communicating with the mob outside the bank.
He knelt down and spoke to Fadi, who shouted, “He says they promised to give him $40,000 at the rate of 12,000 [Lebanese pounds to the dollar],” to the crowd assembled outside.
The audience chuckled and shouts of “no way” were heard.
Although the Lebanese pound is currently trading above 38,000 on the black market, it is officially set at 1,507 to the dollar.
Because he is a trader, he is in the right and faces the possibility of jail time. What ought he to do? Go to jail because he has money in the bank, but people need to borrow it? From outside the bank, local resident Rabih Kojok spoke to Reuters.
A man who claimed to be an uncle of one of the bank employees who was taken hostage expressed concern for his niece while she was being held captive but denied any wrongdoing.
She is merely an employee and is powerless. My own money is stuck in the bank, yet at the same time I understand and sympathize with them, Issam Mahdi told The National.
I wish I could do this, but I’m a retired officer with a bad reputation, so I can’t.
Depositor’s Outcry, a hardline consumer rights organization, participated in at least one raid on Wednesday while Sally Hafez protested for her savings to pay for her sister’s cancer treatment.
However, the group issued a caution that more would come.
The banking association of Lebanon asked authorities to punish people who “verbally and physically attack” banks on Thursday and warned that lenders themselves would not be forgiving.
A month ago, Bassam Al Sheikh Hussein sought $35,000 from the Federal Bank of Lebanon in exchange for his hostages after running up debts to pay for his father’s medical care.
People came together to support Mr. Hussein and held protests in his honor.
Since the nation spiraled into economic ruin in 2019, banks have frozen accounts and placed withdrawal restrictions, keeping depositors mostly cut off from their savings.
Although the capital limits were never made official by law, courts have been slow to act on depositors’ requests for savings through legal action against banks, which has caused some to look for alternate methods of cash withdrawal.
Banks have protested legal judgments by closing branches rather than releasing payments to depositors as required by court decrees.