In Lebanon, armed customers rob banks to get their own money

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A woman with a gun and a few associates were briefly held hostage at a branch of BLOM bank in the capital, Beirut, before leaving with more than $13,000 in cash in her account, a source said. a depositors’ advocacy group.

Shortly after, in the mountain town of Aley, a gunman entered a branch of Bankmed and retrieved some of his trapped savings, before turning himself in to authorities, Outcry depositors and a source said. security.

Lebanese banks have blocked most depositors from their savings since an economic crisis set in three years ago, leaving much of the population unable to pay for basic needs.

In a phenomenon illustrating the plight, Wednesday’s robberies came after a man last month robbed another bank in Beirut to withdraw funds to treat his ailing father.

BLOM bank said a customer and accomplices arrived with a gun, threatened to set people on fire and forced the branch manager and treasurer to bring money from a safe .

“Nothing to lose”

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

“I have nothing more to lose, I have come to the end of the road,” she said, believing that a visit to the bank manager two days earlier had not brought an adequate solution.

“I got to a point where I was going to sell my kidney so my sister could get treatment.”

BLOM confirmed that the client came to ask for money for her sister’s treatment, saying she was offered full cooperation and asked to provide documents.

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

Authorities did not immediately comment on the incidents.

Bankmed did not comment on the hold-up of its branch.

Following last month’s heist, which also involved hostages, the alleged perpetrator was arrested and later released without charge after the bank dropped its charges.

A senior Lebanese banker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was a worrying precedent,

“I think it’s an invitation for other people to do the same. As long as people get away with it, they’ll keep going. What a failed state,” the banker said.

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

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