Desperate depositors resume bank heists in Lebanon
After being locked out of their savings for three years, people in Lebanon have been forced to 'rob' banks to withdraw their own money
By News Desk - October 04 2022

(Photo credit: The National News)

Five more banks in Lebanon were stormed by desperate depositors on 3 October and 4 October, media reported, as the country’s severe economic crisis and devalued currency continue to take their toll on the Lebanese population.

On 3 October, Zahir Khawaja stormed a branch of Blom Bank in the Haret Hreik neighborhood of Beirut’s southern suburbs and “retrieved his savings,” Lebanon’s Association of Depositors said. According to the Depositors Outcry NGO, Khawaja managed to secure $11,750 from his account.

The following day, four more banks across the country were stormed in Tripoli, Chtaura, Tyre, and Beirut.

The First National Bank, in the northern city of Tripoli, was stormed by employees of the Qadisha Electricity Company over a failure by the branch to deliver their salaries, the Depositors Association reported.

It added that in the town of Chtaura, near the Beqaa Valley, a retired soldier of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF), Ali al-Saheli stormed the BLC bank armed with a pistol, reportedly taking a number of hostages and demanding $24,502 be deposited from his account.

Saheli was later arrested after an employee managed to retrieve his weapon.

Another bank, a Byblos Bank branch, was stormed in the southern city of Tyre by a depositor who reportedly also took hostages.

Media later reported that one more bank, the IBL bank in Hazmieh, was stormed by a depositor, who staged a sit-in demanding that he receive his deposit.

“We’re sending a message to the banks that their security measures won’t stop the depositors, because these depositors are all struggling,” Depositors Outcry media coordinator, Moussa Agassi told media.

Following a spree of bank break-ins last month by desperate Lebanese citizens, the country’s banks shut down for a week in fear of further armed action, but began a partial reopening on 26 September as a “test.”

Many have suggested that the heists will continue to take place due to the harsh restrictions on withdrawal limits that came about as a result of the financial collapse of 2019, which has deteriorated the Lebanese economy drastically.

“Continuing the policy of indifference [toward citizens] means the continuing of the bank storming,” the Lebanese Banking Association said.

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