Beirut man takes hostages in bank demanding his money back

Beirut man takes hostages in bank demanding his money back
The gunman's father reportedly needs $50,000 for medical treatment.
2 min read
11 August, 2022
Lebanese depositors have been frozen out of their accounts since 2019, in the midst of Lebanon's punishing financial crisis [Getty]

An armed man took hostages inside a Lebanese bank branch in the Hamra neighbourhood of Beirut on Thursday, allegedly demanding the bank return his money which was frozen in the wake of the country's financial crisis.

Videos circulating on social media showed the man holding a gun and screaming at employees of Federal Bank to give him his money back. It is unclear how many hostages were in the bank at the time of publishing.

Soldiers stood waiting outside the bank branch and an army spokesperson told The New Arab that the details of the hostage situation were not yet clear.

According to the Lebanese Depositors' Union, the father of the gunman is in the hospital and requires $50,000 for medical treatment.

The man was only able to withdraw $1,000 from his account over the last three years, despite having deposits totaling $209,000, the union added. The New Arab has not been able to independently verify this claim.

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Lebanon's banks froze small and medium-sized depositors' accounts after the country's financial crisis in 2019, in effect confiscating the savings of the majority of Lebanon's depositors.

Banks sealed off accounts without any prior authorisation from parliament and have resisted any financial rescue plans which puts the burden of economic losses on ordinary Lebanese.

The Depositors' Union said in a statement that while it insists on "following the legal path to collect deposits", it holds the "political, banking and judicial authorities responsible for any violence".

"We don't have a state like we should and as a result, people have been forced to take matters into their own hands," Dina Abu Zour, a lawyer with the Depositors’ Union, told The New Arab.

It was the third such "Robin Hood" incident in the past year with depositors occupying banks with varying degrees of force to recover their deposits. In January, a man carrying grenades took hostages in a Bekaa bank and successfully managed to withdraw his deposits.

Mohammed Beydoun, the president of a local NGO which occupied a bank last year to recover funds for its beneficiaries, said that he did not regret doing so.

"I am surprised that everyone who has money in the banks can just start over from nothing," Beydoun told The New Arab.

None of those who occupied banks have been charged with crimes, as their money is technically being withheld illegally.