By Sami Zaptia.
London, 23 June 2016:
One of Libya’s main high street banks, Sahara bank, has announced that it is shutting down all its nationwide branches as of today due to insecurity and armed coercion against its branches and staff.
Speaking live on Libyan Iktisadia tv, the bank’s Communications Manager, Isam Hamza, confirmed the shut down and confirmed that it was due to insecurity. He said that he expected the shutdown to last for a short period.
Libya’s Alwataniya TV has reported that the Sahara total closed down was due to the kidnapping of its staff who are in the investigation committee of the robbery of LD 7 million from the safe of its Sebha branch. It reports that it was carried out by the Bab Tajura militia.
Libyan banks have been in the frontline since the 2011 revolution with insecurity, bank heists and militia attacks. they have also been subject to attacks by angry customers unable to withdraw their money due to an acute cash crisis.
The total shut down by Sahara bank is further evidence of the crisis in Libya which Faiez Serraj, prime minister-elect of the UN-backed Government of National Accord, has failed to resolve since arriving in Tripoli at the end of March. Critics say the situation has deteriorated.
It will be recalled that French bank BNP-Paribas had made a 19 percent Euro 145 million strategic acquisition in Sahara bank in 2007. The investment gave it total management control. It was the first foreign bank investment in post-Qaddafi Libya which had come as part of Saif Qaddafi’s reform effort.
Sahara has 1,500 employees, 48 Libya-wide branches and over 300,000 customers. It says it has 17 percent of loans and 22 percent of deposits in the Libyan banking sector.
Since the 2011 revolution, BNP-Paribas was forced to withdraw its French management team with no announcement of a return date.