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Unarmed Lebanese withdraws $12,000 from frozen bank

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
People use ATM machines at a closed BLOM Bank branch in Beirut, Lebanon, on September 20, 2022.

An unarmed Lebanese depositor managed to withdraw nearly $12,000 in cash from his own bank account, although most people’s savings are blocked, according to a depositors’ advocacy group.

Lebanon’s three-year financial crisis has locked most depositors out of their savings as banks imposed informal capital controls.

In recent weeks, a growing number of depositors have taken matters into their own hands, conducting armed holdups.

In the latest incident, Lebanese depositor Zaher Khawaja and some associates managed to withdraw $11,750 from an account with more than $700,000 at the Haret Hreik branch of BLOM Bank, according to the Depositors’ Outcry Association advocacy group.

The group said Khawaja and his associates were not armed. It said they had been in touch with him throughout the incident in the branch of the commercial bank on the edge of Beirut, and would stand by him if any charges were pressed.

Khawaja needed the money to pay off debts, Depositors’ Outcry told Reuters. It did not explain how he managed to make the withdrawal.

BLOM told Reuters in a statement that those involved were not armed and that it was investigating the incident.

Last month, a spree of similar incidents saw the country’s banking association announce an approximately week-long closure.