Lebanese prosecutor overturns decision barring banks from shipping money

A woman uses a Blom Bank ATM machine in Beirut
A woman uses a Blom Bank ATM machine in Beirut, Lebanon March 18, 2022. Picture taken March 18, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT, March 28 (Reuters) - Lebanon's top prosecutor on Monday overturned a judicial decision that last week instructed customs authorities to prevent six banks from moving money out of the country, a senior judicial source and a lawyer told Reuters.

Last week's decision by Judge Ghada Aoun prompted the banking association to warn that the financial institutions - including some of Lebanon's biggest - would be cut off from their correspondents abroad, saying this would prevent trade. read more

Judge Aoun's decision applied to Bank Audi, Bank of Beirut, Creditbank, SGBL, Blom Bank and Bankmed - all of which had their assets frozen in separate judicial actions by Judge Aoun this month as she investigates transactions by the six lenders.

She has also banned the heads of their boards from travel.

She has not charged any of the parties mentioned with any crime.

In Monday's ruling, public prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat reversed Judge Aoun's decision, the source said.

Sakher Hachem, the lawyer who presented the request asking that the decision be overturned, said Oueidat had informed the customs authorities, border authorities and banks that they can ship money normally.

Banks last week staged a two-day strike in protest against what they called arbitrary judicial decisions.

The banking system has been paralysed with most depositors frozen out of U.S. dollar accounts since Lebanon's financial system collapsed in 2019, one of the world's sharpest-ever economic meltdowns.

Reporting by Enas Alashray, Timour Azhari and Tom Perry; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Mark Porter

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