U.S. Targets Alleged Hizbullah Financier with Sanctions

The United States levied sanctions Friday against six individuals and seven business with links to alleged Hizbullah financier Adham Tabaja, the White House said.

The Lebanese businessman is believed by U.S. authorities to be one of the group's top five money men, with ties spanning the Middle East and Africa.

It will be a "very bad day for" Tabaja, said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The sanctions, which are aimed at his managers and companies based in Lebanon, Sierra Leone and Ghana, include trade bans and assets freezes.

They are said to be the first in a "wave" of sanctions targeting Hizbullah after a policy review by President Donald Trump's administration.

The Trump White House is keen to signal a tougher stance on Hizbullah and its Iranian backers.

They argue that president Barack Obama was not aggressive enough in cracking down on Hizbullah financing for fear of derailing a major deal aimed at stopping Iran for getting nuclear weapons.

According to a second senior administration official, Hizbullah receives most of its operating budget -- about $700 million a year -- from the Iranian government and takes orders from the country's elite Revolutionary Guards.

"We will be relentless in identifying, exposing, and dismantling Hizbullah's financial support networks globally," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

Trump officials said more sanctions would be coming against Hizbullah.

The first wave of penalties target Al-Inmaa Engineering Contracting, a company run by Tabaja and based in Hizbullah's stronghold south of Beirut. The construction company is mostly active in predominantly Shiite areas in Lebanon such as Beirut's southern suburbs and the southern market town of Nabatiyeh.

"We will no longer allow corrupt Hizbullah and other Iranian regime cronies to hide their crimes behind front companies," White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Twitter.

The other companies named Friday are mostly based in Africa, where tens of thousands of Lebanese — many of them Shiites — have been living for decades. Most of the individuals targeted had not been publicly known to be Hizbullah financiers and are not prominent names in Lebanon.

Source: Agence France Presse, Associated Press

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