Lebanese banks said they decided to continue operating for another week, delaying the resumption of the strike they began last month in protest of lawsuits and legal investigations.
The Association of Banks in Lebanon said in a statement yesterday, Friday, that it had decided to “extend the suspension of its strike until March 10, 2023 in the evening, to facilitate the work of institutions and individuals, and to re-evaluate any developments regarding the implementation of their demands.”
Banks closed their doors for the first time on February 7 to protest the escalating legal procedures they have faced since the Lebanese economy began to collapse more than three years ago.
Clients have filed a number of lawsuits against banks that imposed severe restrictions on withdrawals and transfers due to the economic collapse.
The banks complained about the investigations of Judge Ghada Aoun, who last month accused two banks of money laundering. The association denounced the judge’s work and called for a solution to what it described as an “imbalance” in the judicial authority.
The association suspended its strike on February 24 to allow customers to use banking services based on the “wish” of caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
This decision came after Mikati moved to obstruct the work of Aoun, who was investigating the violations of the Lebanese financial sector since its collapse in 2019, after decades during which the country witnessed government corruption, waste of resources and financial mismanagement.
After the step taken by Mikati, the Lebanese Public Prosecutor ordered Aoun to suspend her work until the complaints against her were resolved.
The measures taken by the Lebanese authorities against Aoun raised fears among Lebanese lawyers and human rights observers of political interference in the work of the Lebanese judiciary.
The association said today, Friday, that it respects a fair and just judiciary, and reiterated its previous demand for “passing an accelerated, repeated law that completely and expressly abolishes banking secrecy” to allow banks to share data with the authorities and the judiciary in the framework of the investigation of financial irregularities.