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US sanctions seven individuals over financial ties to Hezbollah

US sanctions seven individuals over financial ties to Hezbollah

Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenKim says North Korea needs to be 'prepared' for 'confrontation' with US The Senate just passed the next Apollo program Young Turks founder on Democratic establishment: 'They lie nonstop' MORE on Tuesday announced sanctions against seven individuals over financial ties to Hezbollah, the U.S.-designated terror organization in Lebanon that is backed by Iran.

The individuals were targeted for acting on behalf of Hezbollah or its financial firm, Al-Qard al-Hassan (AQAH).

“While AQAH purports to serve the Lebanese people, in practice it illicitly moves funds through shell accounts and facilitators, exposing Lebanese financial institutions to sanctions risk related to conducting business with a designated entity,” Blinken said in a statement. “Moreover, by hoarding cash that is desperately needed by the Lebanese economy, AQAH empowers Hizballah to build its own support base and compromise the stability of the Lebanese state.”

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One of the seven individuals designated, Ibrahim Ali Daher, serves as director of Hezbollah’s Central Finance Unit, which oversees the groups overall budget and spending, Blinken said.

The other six individuals — Ahmad Mohamad Yazbeck, Abbas Hassan Gharib, Wahid Mahmud Subayti, Mostafa Habib Harb, Ezzat Youssef Akar and Hasan Chehadeh Othman — have used their personal accounts as cover to move funds to AQAH, transferring about $500 million to AQAH, according to the Treasury Department.

“From the highest levels of Hizballah’s financial apparatus to working level individuals, Hizballah continues to abuse the Lebanese financial sector and drain Lebanon’s financial resources at an already dire time,” said Andrea Gacki, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department. “Such actions demonstrate Hizballah's disregard for financial stability, transparency, or accountability in Lebanon.”

The sanctions freeze any U.S. property or assets held by the seven individuals. Any entities owned, directly or indirectly, or with 50 percent or more ownership by the sanctioned persons or with other blocked persons must be reported to the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Further, the sanctions block certain transactions with the individuals, and any person who engages in such transactions opens themselves up to secondary sanctions by the Treasury Department.

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The new sanctions appear to mark the first time the Biden administration has targeted Hezbollah, which exercises significant influence through its political operations in Lebanon and elsewhere.

Blinken called the group a "threat" to the U.S., its allies and interests in the Middle East and globally, and called for other countries to take steps to restrict its activities.

The U.S. is Lebanon's primary security partner, but the country is in the midst of an economic depression, government instability, the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing recovery from the catastrophic blast at the Beirut port in August that decimated the city's downtown area, traumatized its residents and killed more than 200 people.

The sanctions against Hezbollah were praised by Republicans, including the top GOP member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. James Risch (Idaho), who called it a key step in aiding Lebanon and excising Hezbollah's influence on the country.

"I welcome today’s sanctions against #Hezbollah & shadow bankers in #Lebanon. For too long, Hezbollah & political elites have failed to implement the reforms needed to pull the country from the brink of collapse. The people of Lebanon deserve true reform & better leadership," Risch tweeted.

Updated at 1:08 p.m.