|14 December, 2019

Trader widens legal threat against Lebanese bank over funds row

BankMed has denied claims that it failed to return $1bln in deposits to oil trader IMMS

Men walk near broken glass from a damaged Bankmed branch in Tripoli, Lebanon November 27, 2019.

Men walk near broken glass from a damaged Bankmed branch in Tripoli, Lebanon November 27, 2019.

Reuters/Omar Ibrahim

DUBAI: Oil trading company IMMS is considering launching more legal action against Lebanon’s BankMed, which it accuses of refusing to release funds on request.

In a statement to Arab News, IMMS said that it has instructed its lawyers to initiate legal proceedings in other jurisdictions where BankMed has a presence.

It follows the launch of proceedings in New York by IMMS against BankMed, which it claims failed to return $1 billion of its deposits when requested.

“By this action, plaintiff IMMS Limited (IMMS) seeks remedies against defendant BankMed SAL (BankMed) for BankMed’s brazen theft of more than $1 billion from its banking client IMMS,” the court filing said.

However, BankMed denies the allegations and said that it had discovered “material breaches of contract and attempts by IMMS to direct funds due to BankMed overseas” between Oct. 30 and Nov. 12, 2019, without providing further details.

An IMMS spokesperson told Arab News: “Since learning of the proceedings, BankMed has chosen to respond through the media in breach of its obligations of confidentiality to its customer. In doing so it has chosen to make the a series of unfounded allegations that it has not previously seen fit to raise with IMMS or its lawyers. Its response sits uncomfortably with its purported commitment to high standards of banking, the protection of its customers’ interests and its application of Lebanese laws and practices.”

Four major US banks, JP Morgan Chase, CitiBank, BNY Mellon and Standard Chartered Bank, have also been named in the suit.

According to court fillings, the four banks were correspondent banks for BankMed in New York. Bankmed used these banks to effect large transactions in US dollars, which include large deposits by IMMS that it claims BankMed has retained, as well as payments to IMMS customers which it alleges BankMed delayed and withheld.

Lebanon’s economy is in its worst state since the 1975-1990 civil war, with the political rise of Iran-backed militia Hezbollah and the neighboring Syrian civil war deterring foreign investment and putting pressure on the country’s liquidity-starved banking sector.

Protests that have swept Lebanon since Oct. 17 have added to the pressures, deepening the hard currency crunch and prompting commercial banks to put curbs on foreign currency withdrawals and transfers abroad.

Copyright: Arab News © 2019 All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

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