Lebanon

Lebanon’s banks put off strike for another week

Lebanon’s banks said on Friday they would stay open for another week, putting off the resumption of the strike that they launched last month to protest against lawsuits and legal investigations.

The Association of the Banks of Lebanon (ABL) said members would keep working until the evening of Mar. 10 and then re-assess their position depending on how their demands were met.

The banks first closed their doors on Feb. 7 to protest against snowballing legal action they have been facing since Lebanon’s economy began to unravel more than three years ago.

Banks that imposed severe restrictions on withdrawals and transfers in response to the meltdown have faced a string of lawsuits from customers.

Lenders also complained about investigations by Judge Ghada Aoun who last month filed money-laundering charges against two banks. The ABL has decried her work and demanded a solution for what it called a “deficiency” in the judiciary.

The Association suspended its strike on Feb. 24, to let customers use banking services after an appeal, it said, from Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

That decision came after Mikati moved to block Aoun’s work investigating Lebanon’s financial sector in the aftermath of its collapse in 2019 following decades of corrupt government, profligate spending and financial mismanagement.

Following Mikati’s move, Lebanon’s top public prosecutor ordered Aoun to halt her work until the complaints against her had been resolved.

The steps taken against Aoun have raised fresh concerns among Lebanese lawyers and rights watchdogs of political interference in Lebanon’s judiciary.

The ABL on Friday said it respected an impartial and just judiciary.

It reiterated its earlier demands for banking secrecy regulations to be abolished to let lenders share data with authorities and the judiciary for financial investigations.