Lebanese banks plan strike in response to judicial orders

By Tom Perry and Timour Azhari

BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanese banks plan a two-day strike subsequent week in protest at judicial actions in opposition to seven main lenders, a standoff that dangers extra instability for a rustic mired in disaster since 2019.

The banking affiliation stated the strike was a warning in opposition to what it referred to as “the arbitrariness of some judicial selections” – a reference to orders which have frozen the belongings of seven banks since March 14 and banned six of their executives from journey.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati stated actions taken by some judges had been heightening tensions and he had requested the general public prosecutor to “take acceptable measures”.

Lebanon’s banks have been paralysed because the monetary system collapsed in 2019 below the burden of big public money owed attributable to many years of state corruption and waste, locking depositors out of their financial savings. It’s Lebanon’s most destabilising disaster because the 1975-90 civil battle.

“We face a really, very harmful part within the Lebanese disaster,” stated Nabil Boumonsef, deputy editor at Annahar newspaper, including {that a} protracted financial institution closure risked social unrest as salaries couldn’t be withdrawn.

Decide Ghada Aoun has frozen the belongings of six of the banks as she probes transactions between them and the central financial institution.

The seventh, Fransabank, had its belongings frozen by one other choose who dominated in favour of a person who had introduced a case demanding the financial institution reopen his account and pay out his deposit in money.

Fransabank stated on Thursday the order meant it couldn’t dispense money, together with the salaries of public sector workers, as its vaults had been sealed.

Lebanon’s failure to move a capital management regulation because the disaster started has left it to banks to impose casual controls which have handled depositors unequally. Banks say they’ve been calling for such a regulation.

In a separate transfer on Thursday, Ghada Aoun additionally ordered the arrest of Raja Salameh, the brother of central financial institution governor Riad Salameh, on a cost of “complicity in illicit enrichment” in a case a judicial supply stated additionally concerned the governor.

Raja Salameh’s lawyer stated the allegations of “illicit enrichment and cash laundering” had been unfounded and the case was “media hypothesis with none proof.”

Riad Salameh’s lawyer was not accessible for remark.


In his assertion, Mikati – a supporter of Riad Salameh – didn’t specify which judicial actions he was criticising.

However he stated “the plan of action taken by some judges was “pushing in the direction of ominous tensions, and there are makes an attempt to make use of this rigidity in election campaigns”, referring to a Could 15 parliamentary election. “It is a harmful matter.”

Critics of Decide Aoun accuse her of working in response to the political agenda of President Michel Aoun, who appointed her as public prosecutor for the Mount Lebanon district. She denies this, saying that she is implementing the regulation.

In a tweet, Decide Aoun stated it was regrettable to listen to “unacceptable assaults on the judiciary when some aren’t happy by this or that prosecution”, including: “God forbid that the aim is to guard the perpetrators.”

Aoun and his political motion, the Free Patriotic Motion (FPM), are at odds with Mikati and a number of other different main Lebanese events over Salameh, whose three-decade tenure as governor has confronted elevated scrutiny because the financial system collapsed.

The FPM has referred to as for Salameh’s removing, whereas Mikati has proven help for the central financial institution chief whilst he has confronted embezzlement probes at dwelling and overseas.

Salameh faces investigations in Lebanon and a minimum of 5 European international locations together with Switzerland over allegations of cash laundering and embezzlement of a whole lot of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} on the central financial institution – investigations through which his youthful brother Raja can be implicated.

Salameh has denied any wrongdoing. He has described the accusations in opposition to him as politically motivated.

(Reporting by Timour Azhari and Laila Bassam; Writing by Tom Perry; Modifying by Frank Jack Daniel and Catherine Evans)

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