The ex-ambassador of Lebanon has staged a sit-in at the bank in Beirut, amid new robberies




CNN

A former Lebanese ambassador staged a sit-in at his bank outside the capital Beirut on Tuesday, refusing to leave until he received money, his wife told CNN.

Georges Siam’s bank is one of four branches in Lebanon where depositors were calling for their savings on Tuesday.

According to his wife, Siam – a former Lebanese ambassador to Qatar, Turkey, Brazil and the UAE and now Ireland’s honorary consul in Lebanon – refuses to leave the bank. After Hamzieh’s branch refused to give the diplomat the usual monthly withdrawal amount.

“It’s our money and we shouldn’t beg for it,” said Golda Siam, adding that her husband was unarmed and peaceful.

Last month, Siam came to the aid of fellow countryman Sali Hafiz, who held up a bank with a toy gun.

“We need more of that. The woman is a hero,” he said he tweeted at that time

Two other men held up banks in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley and Tire on Tuesday, demanding the return of their savings, in what has become a symbol of dire living conditions amid Lebanon’s financial meltdown. Two men used guns and took the hostages.

A fourth bank was also attacked in Tripoli on Tuesday by a group of disgruntled power company workers protesting overdue wages and salary cuts, according to a campaign by the Depository Appeals Association.

Across Lebanon, bank accounts have been frozen for more than two years as banks imposed capital controls amid the country’s spiraling economic woes.

Increasingly desperate depositors have responded by holding up the country’s bank branches in attempts to withdraw their funds. After a spate of robberies last month, Lebanon’s interior minister accused some groups of organizing illegal acts and destabilizing national security.

The Association of Lebanese Banks (ABL) closed all institutions for a week after the riots on September 16, and 10 days later opened branches for commercial transactions only.

Banks are bearing the “burden” of a systemic crisis created by the Lebanese government and its Central Bank, ABL said in a statement on Tuesday.

ABL also accused the Lebanese government of turning people against the banks, and warned that the country’s currency could one day collapse instead of counting money, adding that at that point “the hope of recovering deposits will vanish.”

Lebanon’s parliament is working on a formal capital control law to stabilize the country’s finances, but approval of the bill has stalled.

Among the planned reforms, the government has also announced that it will start adjusting the official exchange rate at the beginning of November, with the aim of increasing foreign exchange reserves. The change is part of a set of conditions set by the International Monetary Fund for a loan to support the country’s economies.

Demanding more security for bank workers, the Lebanese Bank Workers’ Union has called for a sit-in for October 12.