Beirut, Sep 16 (EFE).- The Association of Banks in Lebanon said Friday that all branches will be closed for three days next week after multiple banks have been held up by depositors’ demanding their money back.
Branches will be shuttered Sept. 19-21 to “protest” the violence, the association’s board said in a statement.
Bassam Mawlawi, interior minister in Lebanon’s caretaker government, convened an emergency meeting of the Central Council for Internal Security to discuss steps to address the bank assaults, his office said.
Due to an unprecedented economic and financial crisis that took hold in 2019, Lebanese banks have sharply restricted depositors’ ability to withdraw funds in foreign currency, especially dollars.
In most cases, a depositor seeking to withdraw money from a dollar-denominated account will only be able to obtain funds in Lebanese currency, whose value has plummeted by 95 percent.
Lebanese news agency NNA reported that at least seven banks were assaulted Friday, beginning with a branch in the Ghazieh district of Sidon.
The episode in Ghazieh ended with the arrest of a man, identified only as M.Q., who entered a branch of Byblos Bank “with a military weapon” and threatened to the burn down the building if he didn’t get his money.
Other heists have followed a similar pattern, according to NAA, which said that the depositors are often cheered on by dozens of people standing outside.
“The operation to liberate deposits has begun,” a member of the organization Depositors’ Outcry, Ibrahim Abdullah, said in a video posted on the group’s Facebook page. “This revolution is against all the banks.”
The first incident took place Aug. 11 at a branch in Beirut where a man demanded his money to pay for treatment of his ailing father.
He surrendered to police after obtaining $30,000 in dollars and spent four days in custody before being released because the bank declined to press charges. EFE