An expert in the banking sector has dismissed the possibility of banks completely closing and stopping their ATM services, stating that such a step might have negative consequences. The Association of Banks is expected to make a decision on Wednesday regarding ATM services, beginning on Thursday. This announcement comes as the Lebanese pound dropped to a record low, trading at 68,000 LBP per USD on the black market by Monday afternoon.
Fadi Khalaf, Secretary-General of the Association of Banks, stated that bank administrations are committed to protecting the interests of depositors and citizens at this delicate stage. He emphasized that banks were relying on an impartial judiciary to resolve the crisis and that they would take all necessary measures to prevent abuses that harm the depositor and the economy.
Khalaf’s comments came as Mount Lebanon Public Prosecutor Judge Ghada Aoun decided on Monday to prosecute Bank Audi, Bank Audi Group CEO Samir Hanna, and Deputy Group CEO Tamer Ghazaleh on charges of money laundering. Aoun referred the case to Nicolas Mansour, the first investigating judge in the Mount Lebanon Court of Appeal, requesting an investigation and the issuance of the necessary arrest warrants.
The Depositors’ Association warned banks against closing, threatening to prosecute them on charges of disrupting a public utility, endangering the remaining financial stability and social security, and insulting the prestige of the judiciary. The General Confederation of Lebanese Workers also warned that the banks’ intention to stop filling ATMs targets most Lebanese people, including small depositors, workers, employees, and ordinary citizens who live without an authoritarian umbrella to protect them.
In a separate development, 46 opposition and reformist MPs have rejected calls to hold a legislative session to pass the capital control bill. The MPs claimed that such a session would be a violation of the constitution since parliament’s only mission now is to elect a president. This pressure has prompted the parliament’s bureau to postpone the legislative session scheduled for Thursday and reconvene next Monday to discuss the issue.
The developments come as the local and international judicial stranglehold tightens on banks, bankers, the central bank governor and their henchmen in power on charges of money laundering, embezzlement of public funds, withholding deposits, and writing off bank losses at the expense of depositors. Today, there is a concern that complete closure will lead to people losing access to their salaries and money their relatives send them from abroad. It remains unclear whether the Association of Banks will go on strike or wait for the legislative session.
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