“The robbery of the century” of banks in Lebanon

After the battle of the streets, it’s time for the battle of the praetorias. Worn out by months of unsuccessful protests, many Lebanese struggling against the oligarchy that has confiscated their country are turning to the courts for justice.

Instead of protesting under the windows of the governor of the Banque du Liban (BDL), Riad Salamé, the mastermind of the financial engineers who plunged Lebanon into the worst economic crisis in its history, instead of venting their anger on the storefronts of banks, which have frozen their savings, the Lebanese are attempting legal action, at home and abroad.

Several hundred actions have been brought in recent months against Lebanese financial institutions, before magistrates from the Cedar country. Dozens of proceedings have also been opened before French, English and American courts and many other cases are in preparation.

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All these steps have been launched by depositors, furious at not being able to access the dollars they have entrusted to their banks, while inflation exceeds 100% and the national currency, the Lebanese pound, has lost 90%. of its value against the greenback. “It’s the scam of the century”, fulminates Brahim Abouzeid, a French-Lebanese lawyer, involved in this battle.

A few cases have caused a lot of ink to flow. In July 2020, a group of activists obtained the seizure of the assets of Riad Salamé in the Mount Lebanon region, an essentially symbolic measure, pending a judgment on the merits. A Jordanian businessman, Talal Abou Ghazalé, who has 40 million dollars (34 million euros) blocked at the SGBL bank, also obtained the seizure of assets of this establishment and its leaders, in order to guarantee his claim. A protective decision that SGBL challenged before the execution judge in Beirut.

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Ponzi scheme

Behind these high profile cases are hundreds of anonymous people who, because they do not manage to recover a few tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, take their bank to court. Like Rebecca, a 23-year-old Beirut, who has been waiting for six months to be able to withdraw $ 25,000 from her account to finance a master’s degree in law in the United States. “It is out of the question that bankers continue to lead the good life while the population suffers”, protests lawyer Fouad Debs, co-founder of the Union of Lebanese depositors, which has launched some three hundred procedures.

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