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 US dollar accounts get an exchange rate that is much less than 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.
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.