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In Lebanon, police join 'robbers', storm bank to get their own money

The Lebanese currency hit another record low on Tuesday, as judicial investigation into central bank chief Riad Salameh moves forward.
A policeman is stopped by security guards from entering a branch of BLOM Bank in the Lebanese port city of Saida (Sidon) on September 26, 2022 as banks reopened to depositors with scheduled appointments only, following a week of closure due to security concerns. (Photo by MAHMOUD ZAYYAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Lebanon’s currency fell to a new low on Tuesday as police officers joined the ranks of many frustrated citizens, and stormed a bank in Tyre in an effort to obtain their own money. 

A group of police officers stormed the Societe Generale de Banque au Liban branch in the southern town of Tyre demanding payment of their salaries, the official National News Agency reported. 

A wave of armed bank robberies has taken place in Lebanon over the last year, as citizens are becoming increasingly fed-up with the economic collapse, and the restrictions by the financial institutions to access their own deposits. 

Meanwhile, the Lebanese pound fell to another all-time low of more than 87,000 pounds to the dollar on Tuesday, according to 

Why it matters: Lebanon's economic crisis, which began in 2019, continues to cause misery. Widespread mismanagement of funds, corruption and capital controls by Lebanese financial institutions has led to most Lebanese people being unable to access the gulf of their savings in banks. Lebanese banks went on strike in early February in demand of stricter capital control laws, but reopened last week. There have been several armed holdups of banks by angry depositors since last year. 

There is also growing anger over the fall of the Lebanese pound, aka the lira. The currency has lost more than 90% of its value on the street since the crisis began in 2019. Several banks were burned in Lebanon last week in response to the pound’s devaluation. 

Much of the public anger is directed at Riad Salameh, who heads Lebanon's central bank — Banque du Liban. Since the crisis began, he has been accused of massive corruption and embezzling millions out of Lebanon. He is also under investigation in France and Switzerland. 

The Lebanese news outlet L’Orient Today reported Tuesday that Salameh “will soon face prosecution” in Lebanon, citing a judicial source. The move constitutes a judicial step to preserve the "rights" of the Lebanese state regarding its assets that were embezzled. The outlet did not provide further details.

L’Orient Today’s report followed AFP reporting last week that Salameh had been charged with embezzlement by a Lebanese judge. On Sunday, the Swiss news outlet SonntagsZeitung reported that Salameh embezzled up to $500 million to 12 banks in Switzerland. 

Salameh was also charged with illicit enrichment last year in Lebanon, but has failed to appear for questioning. Salameh has consistently denied the charges. 

Know more: The Lebanese army is experiencing significant desertions due to the devaluation of soldiers’ wages. 

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