People in Lebanon are “robbing” banks to withdraw their own money in a spate of heists carried out by angry and desperate Lebanese citizens in recent weeks.
It all began in 2019, when Lebanon went into the most severe economic crisis the world has seen in 200 years. The local currency lost 90% of its value and in order to avoid a run on the banks, financial institutions implemented informal capital controls, preventing depositors from withdrawing more than $400 per month.
Customers were (and still are) unable to access their own funds, resulting in violent protests outside bank branches and staff going on strike due to safety concerns. Now individuals are taking matters into their own hands and holding up banks to get what they are owed.
After several “heists” in September, which were carried out by people simply wanting to withdraw their own money, banks in the region were forced to close their doors temporarily. They reopened a week later, only for a swathe of heists to happen again in quick succession.
Sali Haliz, Blom Bank
One such heist – which went viral after it was live-streamed on Facebook – was carried out by 28-year-old interior designer, Sali Haliz. She entered a branch of Blom Bank in Beirut with a replica gun and forced staff to release her family’s funds, which she says she needed to pay for essential cancer treatment for her sister. She managed to get approximately $13,000 of the $20,000 her family had deposited there, according to reports.
Haliz then went on the run from authorities, but later handed herself in and was issued with a £600 fine and a six-month travel ban. No one was injured during the incident.
More than a dozen similar “heists” have happened in the region over the course of a month, forcing banks to temporarily close or step up their security measures.
When will it end?
Lebanon’s banking crisis is a direct impact of widespread corruption, resulting in a financial system designed to serve the elite few and doomed for eventual collapse. The World Bank issued an investigation into Lebanon’s financial system in July 2022, aptly entitled Lebanon Public Finance Review: Ponzi Finance?.
Lebanese banks are hoping for a bailout by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which may ease tensions with depositors, but the Lebanese government must first agree on and implement major financial reforms before the country is eligible for help, including an overhaul of banking secrecy laws which have fostered corruption for decades.
How would this risk event be classified in a risk assessment?
From an operational risk classification perspective, the Blom Bank incident would be classified as a Robbery, Burglary or Physical Theft – without Injury. Below is further detail and guidelines on classifying this type of risk event, including some common classification pitfalls from RiskBusiness CEO, Mike Finlay.
Robbery, Burglary or Physical Theft – without Injury
Direct, physical theft of assets, property or cash from the firm, typically accompanied by threat of physical harm or violence, but where no personal injury actually results. The implications include the associated costs of repairs, counselling of victims and the replacement of assets or property.
|Element type||Risk category|
|Risk type||Operational risk|
|Classification level||Level 4|
|➤ External Fraud|
➤ External Fraud and Theft
➤ Robbery, Burglary and Physical Theft
➤ Robbery, Burglary or Physical Theft – without Injury
|Industry applicability||Industry agnostic|
Classification guidelines for
|➤ Direct, forcible taking of property, assets or cash by means of an armed robbery, bank holdup or cash in transit raid where no-one is injured. ➤ Theft of physical assets, property, valuable documentation or cash by breaking into vaults, safe deposit boxes, automated teller machines, cash dispensers or secured storage areas, where no-one is injured. ➤ Physical theft of unattended assets or property from within the firm’s offices, business premises, official vehicles or from staff authorised to have such items in their possession, where no-one is injured. ➤ Seizing the firm’s staff, clients or customers, or the general public as part of a robbery, holdup or break-in and holding them hostage to secure safe passage or exit from the premises or area, but where no-one is injured.||➤ Direct, forcible taking of property, assets or cash by means of an armed robbery, bank holdup or cash in transit raid, the theft of physical assets, property, valuable documentation or cash by breaking into vaults, safe deposit boxes, automated teller machines, cash dispensers or secured storage areas or the physical theft of unattended assets or property from within the firm’s offices, business premises, official vehicles or from staff authorised to have such items in their possession, where an injury to the firm’s staff, clients or customers or the general public occurs during the execution of the crime or directly in the apprehension of the perpetrators on or about the firm’s premises. ➤ Use of threats or the physical holding of people against their free will to obtain ransom or an extortion payment, or to coerce the co-operation of staff in assisting the criminals against their wishes or intention. ➤ Theft of confidential information or of client or customer identity data. ➤ Theft which is undertaken or assisted by internal employees, acting of their own free will. ➤ All forms of ‘white-collar’ fraud by external parties which do not involve direct or physical theft, robbery, burglary, kidnapping or extortion.|
Key identifying tags:
Access gate; alarm; alarm actuator; armed robberies; armed robbery; armored car; armored truck; armoured vehicle; armoured car; armoured truck; armoured vehicle; ATM; ATM attack; ATM theft; automated cash machine; automated teller machine; bait money; bank guard; bank robberies; bank robbery; banknote; bluecollar crime; branch robberies; branch robbery; break in; break-in; breaking and entering; breaking-andentering; bullerproof glass; bullet resistant; bullet-proof glass; bullet-resistant; burglar; burglar alarm; burglaries; burglary; camera; cash; cashbox; cash and valuables in transit; cash dispenser; cash holding centre; cash in transit; cash-and-valuables-in-transit; cash-box; cash-in-transit; CCTV; CIT; CIT attack; closed circuit television; closed-circuit television; coin; control room; crime syndicate; criminal; currency; CVIT; CVIT attack; demand note; dye pack; emergency alarm; external theft; firearm; force; getaway; guard; gun; gunpoint; heist; hold up; hold up note; holdup; hold-up; holdup note; hold-up note; illegal entry; knife; knives; locators; lock box; mask; masked; metal detector; money; night deposit; nightwatchman; organised crime; organized crime; panic button; petty crime; petty theft; physical security; physical security breach; physical theft; property theft; raid; ram raid; reward; rob; robber; robbery; robbery alarm; safe; safe custody; safe deposit box; safety deposit box; security; security doors; security guard; security officer; security personnel; silent alarm; smash and grab; smash-and-grab; steal; stick up; stick up note; stick-up; stick-up note; stole; stolen; surveillance system; theft; theft and fraud; thief; thieves; threat; threaten; threat of harm; threat of violence; threaten; time delay; time lock; time-delay; time-lock; tracker; tracking device; truncheon; valuable; vault; video; violence; weapon.
Common classification pitfalls:
Essential to classifying this risk correctly is to ensure you differentiate it from other similar types of robbery, explains Mike Finlay, CEO of RiskBusiness. “A robbery, burglary or act of physical theft which is facilitated by internal staff, authorised agents or service providers, whether active in the actual deed or complicit by providing information, should be considered a collusive act and classified under internal fraud,” he says.
It’s also important to separate an event of this kind from one where actual human injury occurs. “Acts of robbery, burglary or physical theft where staff, clients or customers, the general public or law enforcement officers are injured, should not be included in this category,” says Finlay. “However if there is an injury, but the injury is to the individual (or individuals) perpetrating the act only, it should be included in this category,” he adds.