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Morning Brief

BDL backtracks ‘lollar’ suspension, blackouts to continue, port blast probe timeline: Everything you need to know today

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, June 4, and this weekend

BDL backtracks ‘lollar’ suspension, blackouts to continue, port blast probe timeline: Everything you need to know today

Dollar depositors can continue to withdraw at the so-called lollar rate of LL3,900 to $1, BDL announced on Thursday, reversing a decision suspending the rate from the day before. (Credit: AFP)

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The central bank reversed its suspension of a decision ending “lollar” withdrawals less than 24 hours after instating it. Banque du Liban’s governor walked back the unpopular move following a night of small-scale protests in reaction to the suspension, saying that for now banks can continue to pay out so-called lollar account holders in lira at the rate of LL3,900. BDL had suspended the rate the previous day following a preliminary ruling from the State Shura Council that found a BDL circular authorizing this lollar rate to be illegal, ordering instead that withdrawals be paid out in dollars. However, banks almost certainly lack the liquidity to pay out all account holders in foreign currency, and the central bank said they would revert to paying out at the official rate of LL1,500 to the dollar. While yesterday’s announcement brought relief to many depositors, legal experts denounced how it was achieved, describing a three-way meeting among President Michel Aoun, the BDL governor and the State Shura Council head that preceded the announcement as a textbook example of political interference in the judiciary.

Extended electricity blackouts seem likely to stretch into the coming weeks after BDL allegedly failed to open letters of credit to pay for fuel oil shipments. Électricité du Liban said yesterday that only one out of four fuel oil tankers that have arrived off the Lebanese coast has been unloaded because the central bank has failed to open letters of credit to pay the other three. The electricity sector has in recent weeks joined importers of other essential goods, such as gasoline and medical supplies, in sounding the alarm over what they say are shortages caused by delays in subsidy payments by the central bank. A BDL spokesperson previously denied that it is delaying payments for essential goods importers.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon canceled the scheduled start date for the trial of Salim Jamil Ayyash for his alleged role in attacks carried out from 2004 to 2005 against prominent Lebanese political figures. Following an announcement on Wednesday that it does not have funds to function beyond July, the STL said yesterday that the trial surrounding the attacks against Marwan Hamadeh, George Hawi and Elias Murr would not go ahead on June 16 as planned. Last year, the court convicted Ayyash in absentia for his role in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The STL’s funding woes come as Lebanon, marred in an economic crisis, has failed to contribute its 49 percent share of the Hague-based tribunal’s 2021 budget.

The lead investigator into the Beirut port explosion said his probe would be finalized within six months, while the investigation is two months away from determining the cause of the Aug. 4 blast, a judicial source told L’Orient Today. The reported assertions were Judge Tarek Bitar’s first indication of a timeline for concluding his work on the case, which he was appointed to in February following the removal of his predecessor, Judge Fadi Sawwan. Sawwan was appointed within days of the explosion to lead what authorities promised would be a speedy investigation. However, the investigation into the blast has stretched on for months and been widely condemned by lawyers, victims and human rights organizations due to a lack of transparency, alleged due process violations and delays resulting from political interference.

Meanwhile, Omar Itani, an employee of the Beirut port administration, was appointed acting director-general of the port. Itani’s appointment came on the eve of the port explosion’s 10-month anniversary. A demonstration to mark the anniversary of the explosion, which killed more than 200 people and wounded thousands, will take place at 4:30 p.m. in front of the port under the slogan “So as to not forget.”


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.The central bank reversed its suspension of a decision ending “lollar” withdrawals less than 24 hours after instating it. Banque du Liban’s governor walked back the unpopular move following a night of small-scale protests in reaction to the suspension, saying that for now banks can continue to pay out so-called lollar account...