Abidjan - Ivory Coast's incumbent leader, who refuses to cede power, has seized four major international banks that had shut down operations this week in the West African country.
A spokesman for sitting president Laurent Gbagbo read a decree on state TV late on Thursday saying that the banks did not respect the law and closed without proper notice. According to Ivorian law banks have to give three months notice.
Ahoua Don Mello said the government had taken over the offices for Britain's Standard Chartered, France's BNP-Paribas and Societe Generale along with US bank Citibank. These banks hold a majority of the bank accounts for civil servants.
Gbagbo's government would nationalise the banks and would pay February salaries, Don Mello said. It is unclear, however, if Gbagbo will have access to the banks' funds.
Nine private banks began shutting down earlier this week including Nigeria's Access bank. France's Societe Generale, the country's largest financial institution, announced it was shuttering all 47 branches of its local subsidiary serving 230 000 clients.