Banks

Justice lifts the seals affixed to the Fransabank vaults

Two sources close to the case told L’Orient-Le Jour on Tuesday that the courts had ordered the lifting of the seals affixed to two safes of the Fransabank branches concerned, namely those located in Hamra and on Sassine Square in Beirut. These seals were thus lifted on Tuesday between 4 and 5 p.m. They had been affixed almost two weeks earlier following an execution order written by Beirut’s first enforcement judge Mariana Anani in favor of a bank depositor, Ayad el-Gharabaoui Ibrahim, who had been assisted by the group of lawyers and activists Mouttahidoun as well as by the Cri association of depositors.

According to these sources, who did not give details on the procedure, the execution – which allows a creditor whose rights have been recognized to be paid by the sale of the assets of his debtor – was canceled following an appeal by the bank. The plaintiff, of Egyptian nationality, then appealed in cassation to try to reverse the situation. He is claiming, via a lawsuit launched since last January, 35,000 dollars in cash corresponding to the value of his deposits in the bank, which would have returned him only a bank check. A check that can only be deposited in Lebanon, where banks have been restricting withdrawals and transfers since the end of 2019, mainly from foreign currency accounts.

The showdown continues

The execution judge, directly seized by the plaintiff who held an enforceable title, had therefore condemned Fransabank to return this sum in cash, which the bank had refused, thus opening the way to seizure and execution within the framework of an unprecedented procedure in Lebanon since the introduction of banking restrictions.

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What you need to know to understand the Fransabank affair

A first decision had been rendered on March 15 by Mariana Anani for the sealing of “all the assets, shares and properties” of the bank, as well as the seizure of “all the assets of its branches, including the safes and funds “. Later, the seizure of a single chest will be mentioned. But it is in the end two safes, one in each of the agencies concerned, which had been sealed for ten days, according to the two sources contacted. The end point of this file should be marked with the response of justice to the power of cassation formed by the plaintiff.

The Mouttahidoun group announced in the media that a hearing was scheduled for April 5 for a procedure similar to that launched by Ayad el-Gharabaoui Ibrahim, but this time, for the benefit of his wife, Hanane Ibrahim, and still before Judge Mariana Anani. Fransabank did not respond to our requests to react to this new complaint already filed and which would concern, according to our information, an amount close to that which is the subject of Ayad el-Gharabaoui Ibrahim’s complaint. in any case in a very tense context of arm wrestling between certain judges and the banking sector, comprising several aspects, some of which are highly politicized. Following the announcement of the execution against Fransabank, the Association of Banks of Lebanon (ABL) had urged the executive to intervene to “accelerate the implementation of decisions that would put an end to the various procedures targeting the banks and to “press” so that Lebanon finally adopts a “law on the formal control of capital”. A bill to this effect was however rejected on Monday by the joint parliamentary committees and was not presented during the plenary session of Parliament scheduled for Tuesday, as had been anticipated since the weekend. The ABL had meanwhile called on its members to strike on Monday and Tuesday of last week as a warning. For its part, the government had met the Saturday before and then last Wednesday, without anything decisive emerging. The legal proceedings launched by depositors to challenge the restrictions put in place by the banks have multiplied since the start of the crisis, whether in Lebanon or abroad. But it is only in recent months that some have been successful in the first instance, particularly in France or England.

On the Salamé side

At the same time, the banking sector, but also the Banque du Liban and its governor Riad Salamé have been put under pressure by several procedures launched by the prosecutor at the Court of Appeal of Mount Lebanon Ghada Aoun against the governor and several banking institutions. One of the procedures asking the Lebanese Customs Directorate to prohibit several banks from transferring cash funds abroad or from receiving them was canceled on Monday by the office of the Attorney General at the Court of Cassation, in a file that many observers describe as highly politicized.

Finally, also on Monday, the European Union Agency for Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters (Eurojust) announced the seizure of 120 million euros in assets in five European countries by the French, German and Luxembourg courts. in the context of legal proceedings concerning acts of embezzlement in Lebanon. A judicial source confirmed to L’Orient-Le Jour that this measure was taken within the framework of the investigations opened in Europe targeting the fortune of Riad Salamé for facts that may relate to money laundering. Contacted, the press service of Eurojust indicated that it “never gives information on the identity of the suspects”. On Tuesday, the al-Nashra news site told him that the Lebanese authorities had not yet been formally notified of Eurojust’s decision and were preparing to assign someone to follow up on the case.

Riad Salamé’s brother, Raja, was arrested about ten days ago following a hearing convened by Judge Ghada Aoun, who launched proceedings against the two men, following a procedure initiated by lawyers from the collective. “The pioneers of justice”, who filed a civil action. Since then, Raja Salamé has sent a request for release to the first investigating judge of Mount Lebanon, Nicolas Mansour, before whom Ghada Aoun had referred him.

Two sources close to the case told L’Orient-Le Jour on Tuesday that the courts had ordered the lifting of the seals affixed to two safes of the Fransabank branches concerned, namely those located in Hamra and on Sassine Square in Beirut. These seals were thus lifted on Tuesday between 4 and 5 p.m. They had been affixed almost two weeks earlier following…

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