Lebanese lawmaker demands trapped bank savings

Oct 5, 2022, 2:33 AM | Updated: 2:36 am

BEIRUT (AP) — A Lebanese parliamentarian on Wednesday entered a bank branch near Beirut, demanding some of her trapped savings to cover medical expenses.

Cash-strapped Lebanon in recent weeks has witnessed a surge in depositors storming bank branches to forcefully withdraw their locked savings as the country’s economy continues to spiral. On Tuesday, depositors stormed at least four banks, two of which were armed.

Lebanon’s cash-strapped banks have imposed informal limits on cash withdrawals since late 2019. Since then, three-quarters of the population plunged into poverty, and the Lebanese pound lost some 90% of its value against the dollar.

Beirut legislator Cynthia Zarazir entered a Byblos Bank branch near the capital, demanding $8,500 from her savings to cover expenses for a surgery.

The reformist lawmaker arrived with a lawyer, and for several hours has been negotiating with the bank branch’s management.

“I am a Lebanese citizen demanding my rights in light of this exceptional situation,” Zarazir told the press and bystanders.

Her lawyer Fouad Debs, a member of legal and advocacy group the Depositors’ Union, told The Associated Press that negotiations are ongoing, and that she has rejected a “ridiculous” proposal to withdraw her savings in Lebanese pounds at a fraction of its dollar value.

Meanwhile, dozens of protesters scuffled with riot police near at the Central Bank’s headquarters in Beirut.

And in Byblos, a man fired an assault rifle at the glass facade of a bank branch, after employees did not let him in without an appointment.

The general public has commended the bank heists, some even hailing the perpetrators as heroes. Among the most notable cases was Sally Hafez, who last month stormed a Beirut bank branch with a fake pistol and gasoline canister to take some $13,000 to fund her 23- year-old sister’s cancer treatment.

The banks meanwhile have condemned the angry depositors’ actions, and said in a statement Tuesday that the Lebanese government is primarily to blame for the crisis. Last month, the banks closed for a week after at least seven banks were raided, and have since only partially reopened.

Debs, who alongside the Depositors’ Union has tried to help depositors unlock their trapped savings, said that the situation is no longer bearable and that Lebanon needs to reform its economy to become viable again.

“What we want is a collective solution which would be through a recovery plan that’s fair, comprehensive, transparent, and includes the restructuring of the banks and public debt,” Debs told the AP, adding that the politicians and bankers should be held accountable for the crisis.

Lebanon for over two years has been struggling to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout program. The country’s government and divided parliament have stalled over about a dozen mandatory reforms ever since they reached a tentative agreement in April, including restructuring its banks, implementing formal capital controls, and reforming its outdated bank secrecy laws. The United Nations and IMF have both criticized Lebanon for its sluggish progress.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Attorney Alexandra Benevento, center, speaks with reporters during a news conference announc...
Associated Press

Cheerleading abuse accusations increase to 20 with Ohio case

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The latest lawsuit in a series alleging widespread sexual misconduct across competitive cheerleading alleges that officials allowed two choreographers to continue working after they were investigated for sexual abuse. Snowballing accounts of cheerleaders’ alleged abuse have led to increased scrutiny around the sport since the founder of an elite South Carolina […]
12 hours ago
Associated Press

Wisconsin parade crash case an issue in Supreme Court race

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The judge who oversaw the trial of a man convicted of killing six people when he drove his SUV through a Christmas parade last year says national exposure and encouragement she got for her handling of the case is not why she is running for a pivotal Wisconsin Supreme Court seat. […]
12 hours ago
FILE - Former FBI director James Comey speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, June ...
Associated Press

IG: Tax audits in years of Comey, McCabe reviews were random

WASHINGTON (AP) — A watchdog investigation initiated after the tax returns of two former FBI directors were subjected to intensive audits during the Trump administration has concluded that the reviews from those years were conducted at random. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said Thursday that its review had determined that the Internal Revenue […]
12 hours ago
FILE - Train tracks headed west reflect the sun setting near Chicago's Union Station, Sept. 14, 202...
Associated Press

Biden administration presses senators to avert rail strike

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy would face a severe economic shock if senators don’t pass legislation this week to avert a freight rail worker strike. That’s the message the Biden administration is delivering personally to Democratic senators in a closed-door session Thursday. The House acted soon after a request from President Joe Biden and […]
12 hours ago
Associated Press

2nd ex-soldier pleads guilty in Army barracks slaying

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A second former Army soldier has pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from the 2020 killing of a fellow service member found dead from dozens of cuts and slashes in his barracks at a Georgia base. Jordan Brown, 21, pleaded guilty before a U.S. District Court judge Tuesday in Savannah to […]
12 hours ago
FILE - A gamer plays with Rubik's Magic Cube at the international game fair 'SPIEL' in Essen, Germa...
Associated Press

The mind behind the Rubik’s Cube celebrates a lasting puzzle

NEW YORK (AP) — If you’ve ever had trouble solving a Rubik’s Cube, a good piece of advice is to break it down into steps. It’s worth a shot: That advice is from the man who invented it. “Problem solving is a very basic activity of the human mind and if a problem is complex […]
12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Lebanese lawmaker demands trapped bank savings