In a very tense economic context, five robberies of this type took place in a single day.
Five banks have beenpointed» this Friday, September 16 at Lebanon by customers seeking to withdraw their stranded savings, the latest in a string of such incidents that have garnered widespread public support in the unprecedented crisis-hit country.
Lebanon has been plunged since 2019 into serious economic and financial difficulties attributed by a large part of the population to the mismanagement, corruption, negligence and inertia of a ruling class in place for decades.
In 48 hours, seven banks were robbed, including five on Friday alone. Faced with the multiplication of these incidents, the Minister of the Interior Bassam Mawlawi held an emergency meeting “to take the necessary security measures“. “Claiming your rights in this way (…) can harm the system and cause the rest of the savers to lose their rights“, he warned after the meeting. The Association of Banks of Lebanon (ABL) has ordered the closure of all branches for three days next week.
Vote on adjourned budget
Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat ordered the arrest of those involved in the robberies, according to a judicial source contacted by AFP. He also asked the security forces to determine whether these incidents were coordinated. A parliamentary session scheduled for Friday to vote on the 2022 draft budget, one of the reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund to unlock billions of dollars in aid, was adjourned to September 26, after the withdrawal of several deputies.
On Wednesday, the exasperation of a Lebanese woman who stormed a Beirut bank to recover her frozen savings to pay for the hospitalization costs of her cancer-stricken sister had a snowball effect. Friday at midday, no less than five other robberies were recorded.
Early in the morning, a man and his son broke into a branch of Byblos Bank in Ghaziyeh, southeast of Saida, the main city in the south, a police source and a witness security officer told AFP. of the incident. The man threatened bank employees with a gun, which a local TV station said was fake. He eventually managed to get some $19,000 in cash but then turned himself in to the police. A crowd had gathered in front of the bank to support him.
In Beirut, in the district of Tarik Jdide, a man locked himself in a branch of the Blom Bank with police, witnesses gathered in the street told AFP. According to them, it is a trader in debt who demands the withdrawal of his frozen savings. This robbery ended in the afternoon, after the man handed over his weapon to the police, while affirming that he intended to stay in the bank until obtaining his money, according to an AFP correspondent.
In the nearby district of Ramlet al-Bayda, a man armed with a shotgun stormed a branch of the Lebanon & Gulf Bank, residents told an AFP photographer. His family eventually recovered the sum of 15,000 dollars. The man came out of the bank flanked by police. In the southern suburbs of Beirut, a young man armed with a fake pistol told him that he was able to withdraw the sum of 20,000 dollars from a bank, according to local media. In Chhim, in the South, a retired soldier held six people hostage in a branch of BankMed, including the director, according to an association of savers. He finally got $25,000 and walked out of the bank surrounded by law enforcement.
In August, a man was cheered by the crowd after claiming, gun in hand in a Beirut bank, more than 200,000 euros in savings to pay for his father’s hospitalization costs. The bank had given him nearly 30,000 euros and he had surrendered to the authorities. He was not prosecuted. For its part, the main association of Lebanese savers expressed its support for the perpetrators of these robberies, affirming that they were confronted with “injustice and oppression“.