Lebanon’s bank shutdown: Depositors demand access to savings



CNN

Depositors raided at least five banks around Lebanon on Friday in an attempt to recover frozen savings in the banking system, a Lebanese army official told CNN.

In one of the incidents, an armed man entered a bank in the southern Lebanese city of Ghazieh and poured gasoline on the floor of the building, threatening to burn down the branch if he did not get his money, state news agency NNA reported.

He retrieved $19,200 from the bank and gave it to someone waiting outside the bank before turning it over to authorities, NNA said.

In another incident under investigation, a man entered a BLOM bank branch in Beirut’s Tariq al-Jdideh neighborhood, also trying to get hold of his savings, the army official said.

The man was believed to be armed, but the situation was “under control … and no one was hurt,” said a man who witnessed the incident and said he was interviewed by local TV station Al Jadeed.

“It looks like something was planned for this day,” the army official said. An investigation is underway, the military official told CNN.

After the incidents, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi called for an emergency security meeting to “discuss further security measures that can be taken due to the increasing incidents of bank storming,” NNA said.

Lebanese banks have locked most deposits out of savings since the economic crisis began three years ago, leaving a large part of the population unable to pay for basic necessities.

The arrests came two days after similar episodes unfolded at two separate banks in Beirut. In one, a woman named Sally Hafiz withdrew $20,000 from her account after raiding a bank with what she later claimed was a toy gun, state news reports said.

In another incident last month, an armed man stormed a Beirut bank and threatened to kill hostages and himself if the bank did not allow him to withdraw money from a frozen account. Bassam Sheikh Hussein said he needed the funds to pay his father’s medical expenses. The standoff ended when the bank gave Hussein some of his savings.