Lebanese MP walks into unarmed bank branch to demand frozen savings – News

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Such cases have snowballed across Lebanon as locals have grown increasingly exasperated by informal capital controls imposed by banks since 2019.



For representative purposes only (Photo: AP)

By Reuters

Published: Wed 05 Oct 2022, 12:16 PM

Early Wednesday, a Lebanese MP (MP) entered a branch of Byblos Bank (located north of Beirut) with a group of associates to demand access to her frozen savings, in order to pay for an upcoming surgery, according to a filers’ advocacy group.

Cynthia Zarazir – a first parliamentarian elected in May to represent Beirut – entered the bank unarmed and demanded $8,500 in cash, a member of the Depositors’ Union told Reuters.

“We spent a few days going back and forth to the bank and bringing my [medical] reports and they don’t respond to us. I can’t delay this any longer. I came to take my money,” Zarazir said by phone from the bank.

“Today I came as I don’t care what my colleagues in parliament will think. I see right from wrong,” she said.

The bank branch closed after Zarazir entered, according to a live broadcast from inside the branch by Al-Jadeed. A Byblos Bank spokesperson at its headquarters was not immediately available for comment.

Cases of bank hold-ups have snowballed across Lebanon, with residents growing increasingly exasperated by the informal capital controls banks have imposed since 2019, when the country’s economic downturn began.

Depositors can only withdraw limited amounts in US dollars or the Lebanese pound, which has lost more than 95% of its value since the start of the crisis.

Zarazir said she rejected an offer from the bank to withdraw an unlimited amount of Lebanese pounds, at a rate of 8,000 pounds to the dollar, a loss of around 80% of the value of her funds.

“She didn’t break the law in any way. She went to her bank to ask for her money. She didn’t even close the bank, it was the management that did it,” said Fouad Debs, his lawyer and founder of the Depositors. ‘ Union Advocacy Group.

Tuesday saw four heists across Lebanon. Two of those incidents involved gunmen demanding their bail.

Another incident took place on Monday.

The Lebanese banking association has expressed its indignation at these hold-ups. A similar surge last month prompted banks to close for about a week.

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