U.S. Sanctions Amhaz Electronics Firm for Allegedly Helping Hizbullah Buy Material Used in Dronesإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned a network of firms and individuals in Lebanon, the UAE and China for allegedly procuring sophisticated military equipment for Hizbullah, including materials for aerial drones.
“As the Treasury Department announced today, the United States targeted a key Hizbullah procurement network by designating brothers Kamel Mohamad Amhaz and Issam Mohamad Amhaz; their business, Stars Group Holding, which is based in Beirut and has subsidiaries in China and the UAE; and certain managers and individuals who supported their illicit activities,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
Later on Thursday, a Stars Group manager denied the accusations in remarks to LBCI television, saying his firm had not yet received the sanctions decree in an official manner.
“Hizbullah relies heavily on front companies such as Stars Group Holding, which continue to procure dual-use material for the organization to enhance its military capabilities,” the State Department said in its statement.
It accused Stars Group Holding of covertly purchasing sophisticated electronics and other technology from suppliers around the world, including “a range of engines, communications, electronics, and navigation equipment.”
“These materials have directly supported Hizbullah’s development of unmanned aerial vehicles for its destructive military activities in Syria,” it noted.
The State Department said today’s designation “illustrates yet again the extent of Hizbullah’s international presence and reach,” calling on Washington's partners to take action against “Hizbullah’s illicit networks, which fuel its violent political agenda and enhance its ability to engage in destabilizing activities in Syria, throughout the Middle East more broadly, and around the world.”
The Treasury Department named for sanctions Stars Group Holding, its subsidiaries, its owner, executives Kamel Mohamad Amhaz and Issam Mohamad Amhaz, and two Stars Group managers, Ayman Ibrahim and Ali Zeaiter.
It also named Hanna Elias Khalifeh, whom it described as a Lebanese businessman and Hizbullah member who worked with the Stars Group.
"These individuals and entities have relied on false end-user certificates, mislabeled air waybills, and other fraudulent methods to avoid export restrictions and otherwise conceal Hizbullah as the ultimate end-user or beneficiary of these goods," the Treasury said.
The sanctions place a freeze on any of their assets under U.S. jurisdiction and ban Americans from any business with them.
According to U.S. officials quoted by the Wall Street Journal, the network is run out of Beirut and has successfully procured engines, communications electronics and navigation equipment for Hizbullah from companies inside the U.S., Europe, Canada and Asia in violation of American exports laws.
"With disturbing reach far beyond Lebanon, Hizbullah's extensive procurement networks exploit the international financial system to enhance its military capabilities in Syria and its terrorist activities worldwide," David Cohen, the Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said Thursday.
"This global terrorist activity and expanding criminal network belie Hizbullah's claimed purpose as a national liberation movement," Cohen added.
The Obama administration has increasingly targeted Hizbullah and its financial networks. In recent years, the U.S. has charged the group with running illicit businesses, including drug trafficking, to fund its operations – allegations Hizbullah has repeatedly denied.
In 2011, the Treasury blacklisted Lebanon's then eight-largest bank, Lebanese Canadian Bank, for allegedly helping Hizbullah launder hundreds of millions of dollars in drug profits. The bank was eventually taken over by the Lebanese government and liquidated.
"It is critical that countries throughout the world work together to combat this dangerous organization and sever it from sources of revenue and support," Cohen said.
Hizbullah, along with Iran and Russia, has emerged as a top ally of the Syrian regime in its fight against rebel groups that have sought to overthrow the Damascus government.
Hizbullah has sent thousands of fighters as well as military advisers into Syria, arguing that its military intervention in the neighboring country is necessary to fend off the threat of extremist Sunni groups and prevent the fall of the country into the hands of the U.S. and Israel.