The Lebanese Court of Cassation overturned a 2022 appeal decision that was in favor of Fransabank against two of its depositors, Ayad el-Gharabaoui Ibrahim and his wife Hanane Maroun al-Hajj Ibrahim.
The latest appeal, filed on behalf of the two depositors by lawyer Rami Olleik — founder of the Moutahidoun ("United") lawyers' collective — challenged the legality of the Appeals Court's suspension of an order issued in March 2022 by Beirut Enforcement judge Mariana Anani.
In practical terms, this means that the Court of Cassation did not rule on the claims of the two applicants, returning this decision to the original court. Rather, the Court of Cassation ruled that the Court of Appeal was wrong to suspend the original judge's seizure and execution order against Fransabank.
The case began when Fransabank attempted to pay out the Ibrahims' deposits — several tens of thousands of dollars — in the form of a bank check, which cannot be cashed without incurring a significant loss in value through the Lebanese banking system. The Ibrahims then tried to obtain a court order forcing Fransabank to turn over their savings at their real market value.
The case made a lot of noise in March. Fransabank had suspended its activities following a seizure and execution order allowing the court to seal its assets while the dispute with the two depositors was ongoing.
Banks went on strike to show their solidarity, and the case was at the center of a cabinet meeting.
On Friday, Fransabank told L'Orient-Le Jour that all its branches were closed, but that its ATMs and its internal services were working.
Contacted by L'Orient-Le Jour, Olleik referred to a "historic" decision of the Lebanese courts, recalling that only depositors who went to court abroad had succeeded in asserting their rights against the banks that restricted access to their deposits— a widespread illegal practice but imposed at the beginning of Lebanon's economic crisis.
The banks have always stressed the responsibility of the state in their liquidity crisis, pointing to its default on foreign currency debt in March 2020 and the fact that no capital control law has been passed.