Lebanese woman who stormed bank given travel ban and fine

Sali Hafez demanded access to trapped family savings to pay for her sister's cancer treatment

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A Lebanese woman was given a six-month travel ban and a fine by a judge on Thursday after she stormed a bank last month brandishing a fake pistol, demanding access to trapped family savings to pay for her sister's cancer treatment.

Sali Hafez was lauded as a hero by many in Lebanon after she broke into a BLOM Bank branch in Beirut and pressured bank employees to hand over $12,000 and the equivalent of about $1,000 in Lebanese pounds from her account.

She then went into hiding in the Bekka Valley, but handed herself into authorities on Wednesday night.

Leaving court on Thursday, she said she was planning to go to her bank to sign a document confirming the amount of money she withdrew during the incident last month and the amount still locked in her account.

“But how about you give me the rest of my money while things are calm, so we don’t have to go through that again?” she said, referring to her bank's management.

Ms Hafez's was one of many similar incidents to have occurred in recent months in Lebanon.

Banks imposed informal capital controls in 2019, severely restricting access to hard currency and compounding the severe economic difficulties faced by people in Lebanon.

Lebanon has been engulfed by an economic crisis since 2019, which has been described by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern history. Much of the country has been plunged into poverty and the local currency has plummeted in value by more than 95 per cent.

There are severe shortages of basic essentials including bread, electricity, medicine and water.

On Thursday to the south of Beirut in Khalde, a man tried but was unable to break into a Banque Libano-Francaise branch, depositors' groups reported.

Meanwhile, in the southern city of Nabatieh, Yahya Badr Al Din broke into his bank armed with a handgun.

In a video he took himself inside the bank, he threatened to kill himself if he did not receive his money. Depositors' protest groups said he has about $100,000 locked in his savings account and is reportedly struggling to cope with about $48,000 in debt.

On Wednesday, MP Cynthia Zarazir entered a bank near Beirut and peacefully demanded the release of her frozen savings to cover medical expenses.

Updated: October 06, 2022, 6:18 PM
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