Judge Aoun bans directors of 5 largest Lebanese banks from travel

A damaged ATM cash machine is pictured in Beirut
File photo: A damaged ATM cash machine is pictured in Beirut, Lebanon March 17, 2021. The financial collapse of Lebanon resulted in depositors largely being shut out of their lifetime savings and the local currency losing more than 90% of its value. A draft of the plan to plug a huge hole in the financial system, forsees returning just $25 billion out of a total $104 billion in hard currency deposits to savers in U.S. dollars. On the other hand many of the corrupt Lebanese politicians and several top officials and bank executives were able to transfer billions of US dollars to their overseas accounts with the help of Central bank chief who is being investigated by several European countries over money laundering and embezzlement of hundreds of millions US dollars of public funds . REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
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BEIRUT — A Lebanese judge on Thursday imposed travel bans on the heads of the country’s five largest banks over suspicions related to a possible transfer of billions of dollars abroad during the nation’s economic meltdown.

The state-run National News Agency did not elaborate on the decision by Ghada Aoun, an investigating judge for the Mount Lebanon district. Local TV stations said the move was precautionary as auditors look into transfers by the banks worth $5 billion.

Lebanese banks have imposed informal capital controls since the economic crisis began in October 2019 after decades of corruption and mismanagement by the country’s political class.

Since then, people have had no full access to their savings and those who withdraw cash from their U.S. dollar accounts get an exchange rate that is fraction of that of the black market.

In January, Aoun imposed a travel ban on Lebanon’s central bank governor after a corruption lawsuit accused him of embezzlement and dereliction of duty during the crisis.

File photo: A bakery makes flat breads in Beirut, Lebanon. Authorities raised the price of bread, the country’s main staple, by 30% following a recent move by the central bank to end subsidies

Also on Thursday, authorities raised the price of bread, the country’s main staple, by 30% following a recent move by the central bank to end subsidies for sugar and yeast.

There are mounting concerns that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will affect wheat imports in Lebanon, heavily reliant on Ukrainian and Russian wheat.

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