Depositors hold two Lebanese banks to snatch their own money

Depositors hold two Lebanese banks to snatch their own money
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  • Lebanese banned from deposits during crisis
  • The woman who raids the bank to get her money for her sick sister
  • Gunman arrested after robbing another bank
  • Phenomenon shows ‘failed state’ Lebanon’s woes

BEIRUT, Sept. 14 (Reuters) – Two Lebanese depositors, apparently armed and desperate, detained banks Wednesday to force access to their own money, which was blocked during a national financial collapse.

An armed woman and some of her associates are briefly held hostage at a branch of BLOM Bank (BLOM.BY) A source from a group of deposit advocates said he was in the capital, Beirut, before he left his account with more than $13,000 in cash.

Shortly after, a gunman broke into a Bankmed branch in the mountain city of Aley and handed himself over to the authorities, reclaiming some of his trapped savings, a security source said.

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Lebanese banks have locked many depositors out of their savings since the economic crisis three years ago made most of the population unable to pay for basic necessities.

In one case study, Wednesday’s robberies came after a man hired another Beirut bank to withdraw money last month to treat his ailing father. Read more

BLOM Bank said a customer and his accomplices came in with guns, threatened to set people on fire, and forced the branch manager and treasurer to fetch money from the safe.


Before Sali Hafez went into hiding, the woman told local news channel Al Jadeed TV that the gun was a toy and that her sister needed money for cancer treatment.

“I have nothing to lose, I’ve come to the end of the road,” he said, adding that visiting the bank manager two days ago did not provide an adequate solution.

“I’ve come to a point where I’m going to sell my kidney so my sister can get treatment.”

BLOM confirmed that the client came to seek money for his sister’s treatment and said that he was offered full cooperation and asked to submit documents.

“All we have is this money in the bank. My daughter was forced to take this money to treat her sister – it’s her right, in her account -” her mother, Hiam Hafez, told local television.

Authorities did not immediately comment on the events.

Bankmed did not comment on the branch robbery.

After last month’s robbery involving hostages, the accused perpetrator was arrested but was released without charge after the bank dropped the case.

A senior Lebanese banker speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters this is an alarming precedent.

“I think it’s an invitation to other people to do the same. As long as people stay with them, they’re going to keep going. What a failure,” the banker said.

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

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Reports by Timour Azhari, Laila Bassam and Issam Abdallah; By Maya Gebeily Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Alexandra Hudson and Andrew Cawthorne.

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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