English High Court ruling asserts jurisdiction over Lebanese banks amid withdrawal restrictions
BEIRUT: A judge in the English High Court ruled on Tuesday that courts in England and Wales have jurisdiction in consumer cases involving Lebanese banks after a Lebanese national and United Kingdom resident brought a case against Lebanon’s second-largest lender for failing to return his savings.
Bilal Khalifeh successfully argued that, as a UK domicile, he was entitled to bring a case in English courts against Blom Bank, for failing to return his savings.
“This is a victory for Lebanese consumers. I brought the case out of frustration of Blom Bank’s refusal to return my life savings. It shows that no one, including banks in Lebanon, is above the law," Khalifeh said in a press statement after English High Court Judge, Master Richard Davison, ruled in his favor.
“I was in the fortunate position that I was able to afford to bring this case, and I am mindful that not every consumer is able to do so. I hope that this case will help the many thousands of people in similar situations, but Lebanese banks should now do the right thing and pay all consumers their savings back,” Khalifeh added.
Khalifeh is one of thousands of clients who were denied access to their savings after Lebanese banks restricted cash withdrawals and overseas transfers as Lebanon defaulted on its foreign currency-denominated debt and plunged into its worst economic and financial crisis.
The case will now proceed to trial in England, according to Joseph McCormick, Partner at London-based Rosenblatt, the law firm representing Khalifeh.
“This is a significant ruling that shows that Lebanese banks can be held to account before the English courts. This has widespread implications, not just for deposit holders in the UK but throughout Europe," McCormick told Annahar.
McCormick said Blom Bank failed to return around 1.4 million US dollars.
The case was the first in England and Wales involving Lebanese banks’ failure to return their customers’ money. The case now opens the door for many more cases to be brought, not only in England and Wales but across the European Union, McCormick added.
Khalifeh was represented in court by Jeremy Richmond QC and Zahler Bryan.
The defendant, Blom Bank S.A.L, were represented by Adam Silver at Dechert LLP and Ian Wilson QC.