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Treasury targets Hezbollah financial networks with fresh sanctions

October 4, 2018

U.S. officials on Thursday launched their latest effort to “expose and disrupt” Hezbollah’s financial networks, announcing sanctions on a Lebanese national and seven companies linked to the Iranian-supported militant group based in Lebanon.

In a statement, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) accused Mohammad Abdallah al-Amin of “assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, [Adham] Tabaja,” an alleged Hezbollah financier.

Treasury officials accuse Mr. Amin of hiding funds for Mr. Tabaja, whom it sanctioned in 2015, and alleged he maintained “direct ties to senior Hezbollah organizational elements, including the terrorist group’s operational component, the Islamic Jihad, and [of holding] properties in Lebanon on behalf of the group.”

“Hizballah is an Iranian-proxy, and this Administration is focused on exposing and disrupting its terrorist funding networks,” Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said Sigal Mandelker said in a statement. “Our action should serve as a warning that we will impose consequences on anyone engaging in business relationships with Amin or other Hezbollah support networks.”

Treasury also blacklisted seven Lebanese companies with alleged links to Mr. Amin. Those include: Sierra Gas SAL Offshore, Lama Foods SARL, Lama Foods International Offshore SAL, Impulse SARL, Impulse International SAL Offshore, M. Marine SAL Offshore and Thaingui SAL Offshore.

The Trump administration has aggressively used sanctions on Hezbollah and individuals associated with the militants to try and degrade Iran’s influence across the Middle East.

The challenges are significant, U.S. officials admit. Annual Iranian support to Hezbollah is an estimated $700 million a year and is often laundered through some of the world’s most sophisticated underground networks.

On Thursday, OFAC noted that 2018 marks the highest number of Hezbollah-related blacklist designations in a single year.

All those sanctioned on Thursday had property and assets under U.S. jurisdiction seized.

U.S. citizens are also now prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) think tank in Washington. He observed that the sanctions on Mr. Amin could trigger deeper discussions about Hezbollah’s position within Lebanese society.

“The diverse companies owned by al-Amin,” Mr. Badran said in a statement, “gas, food, merchandise distribution, advertising underscore how enmeshed Hezbollah’s finances are in the Lebanese economy more generally.”

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