Depositors maintain two banks in Lebanon to hold their money

Depositors maintain two banks in Lebanon to hold their money
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  • The Lebanese banned their savings during the crisis
  • The woman attacked the bank to get her sick sister’s money
  • Another gunman was arrested after holding up another bank
  • This phenomenon shows the woes of Lebanon’s “failed state”.

BEIRUT, Sept 14 (Reuters) – Two apparently armed and desperate Lebanese depositors held up banks on Wednesday to force access to their money, which has been blocked during the national financial crisis.

A woman with a gun and some of her associates held a BLOM Bank branch hostage for a short time (BLOM.BY) in the capital Beirut, before leaving with more than $13,000 in cash from his account, a depositor protection group source said.

A short time later, in the mountainous town of Aley, an armed man entered a Bankmed branch and took some of his trapped deposits before handing himself over to authorities, protesting depositors and a security source.

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Lebanese banks have stripped most depositors of their savings since the economic crisis three years ago, leaving a large portion of the population unable to pay basic expenses.

Wednesday’s tense incident comes after a man held up another Beirut bank last month to withdraw money to treat his ailing father. read more

BLOM Bank said that the customer and his accomplices came with guns, threatened 7 people with fire, and forced the branch manager and the treasurer to bring money from the safe.


Before going into hiding, the woman, identified as Sali Hafiz, told local news channel Al Jadeed TV that the gun was a toy and that she needed money for her sister’s cancer treatment.

“I have nothing to lose, I’m at the end of the road,” he said, adding that a visit to the bank manager two days earlier had not provided an adequate solution.

“I got to the point where I will sell my kidney so that my sister can get treatment.”

BLOM confirmed that the client had gone to seek money for her sister’s treatment, saying she was offered full cooperation and asked to provide documents.

Her mother, Hiam Hafiz, told local TV: “We only have this money in the bank. My daughter had to take this money – it’s her right, it’s in her account – to treat her sister.”

Authorities did not immediately comment on the incident.

Bankmed did not comment on the closure of the branch.

The alleged perpetrator was arrested last month following an arrest involving hostages, but was released without charge after the bank withdrew its plea.

A senior Lebanese banker, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters it was a worrying precedent.

“I think this is an invitation to other people to do the same. As long as people get away with it, they will continue. What a failed state,” the banker said.

Banks say they make exceptions for humanitarian cases, including hospital treatment, but depositors say this rarely happens.

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Reporting by Timur Azhari, Laila Bassam and Issam Abdallah; Post edited by Maya Gebeily Frank Jack Daniel, Alexandra Hudson and Andrew Cawthorne.

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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