BEIRUT — Lebanese Swiss Bank will close its doors indefinitely after three of its employees were injured when angry depositors from a local NGO stormed its headquarters in Beirut’s Hamra neighborhood on Monday afternoon to demand money transfers, the bank said in a statement issued Monday night.
“About a hundred men belonging to the Banin [Charity] Association occupied the building of the general administration of our bank, assaulting our employees,” the statement said, adding that one staff member remains in hospital with two facial fractures that require surgery.
It went on to say that the bank’s managers were “forced under the pressure of beatings and violence to make cash transfers to Turkey.”
The statement did not specify the sum of funds transferred.
Urging the Syndicate of Banks Employees in Lebanon to play its part in ensuring bank employees’ safety and security, the statement announced that “starting from tomorrow, Tuesday, until our employees can carry out their work safely and securely, we apologize to our valued customers for the decision to shut down our bank completely.”
A spokesperson for the Internal Security Forces confirmed that members of a local NGO had stormed the bank demanding $200,000, and said an agreement had been reached.
Speaking to L’Orient Today outside the bank while the incursion was ongoing, a person claiming to represent Banin Charity Association said the transfers were needed to cover surgeries abroad for needy people.
At the time he said, “There’s no deal to be negotiated. We won’t leave before they transact all the money.”
At around 5:30 p.m. the depositors and their supporters left the bank, without indicating whether or not all the transactions they had demanded had been executed.
Later Monday evening, a post on the NGO’s Facebook page claimed that $180,000 had been “retrieved,” without specifying what exactly the funds’ retrieval entailed.
In an video-recorded interview with a local media outlet, also posted to the NGO’s Facebook page Monday evening, a spokesperson for the organization said, “We are not thugs, we do not occupy places and we apologize to all the employees who were stuck at the bank.”
“Today we managed to regain $180,000 for the poor,” he added.
Following Lebanese Swiss Bank’s announcement, the Association of Banks in Lebanon said Monday night that all commercial bank branches across the country will close Tuesday in solidarity with employees of the targeted bank’s Hamra branch.