U.S. Slaps Fresh Sanctions on Suspected Hizbullah Members, Firms
The U.S. Treasury on Thursday slapped sanctions on two alleged Hizbullah financiers and five companies allegedly linked to the Iran-backed Lebanese group.
“Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Hizbullah financier Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi and Hizbullah's representative to Iran Abdallah Safi-Al-Din as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism,” the Treasury said in a statement.
“Also designated today as SDGTs are five companies located in Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East for being owned or controlled by Mohammad Bazzi and another SDGT. Specifically, OFAC designated Belgian energy services conglomerate, Global Trading Group NV; a Gambia-based petroleum and petroleum products company, Euro African Group LTD; and Lebanon-based Africa Middle East Investment Holding SAL, Premier Investment Group SAL Offshore; and Car Escort Services S.A.L. Off Shore (CES), an import/export company based in Lebanon. This is the third action in the past week in which OFAC has designated terrorists with a connection to the Central Bank of Iran,” the Treasury added.
It said this action highlights the “duplicity and disgraceful conduct” of Hizbullah and its Iranian backers.
“Despite (Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan) Nasrallah’s claims, Hizbullah uses financiers like Bazzi who are tied to drug dealers, and who launder money to fund terrorism,” said Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.
“The savage and depraved acts of one of Hizbullah’s most prominent financiers cannot be tolerated. This Administration will expose and disrupt Hizbullah and Iranian terror networks at every turn, including those with ties to the Central Bank of Iran,” he emphasized.
As a result of Thursday's action, “all property and interests in property of these persons that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC,” the Treasury added.
“Today’s actions show the convergence of Iran’s support for terrorism with many facets of illicit criminal activity, including narcotics trafficking. In addition to providing millions of dollars to Hizbullah, Mohammad Bazzi is a close associate of Yahya Jammeh, the corrupt former leader of The Gambia who, in addition to ordering targeted assassinations, plundered The Gambia’s state coffers for his personal gain,” the Treasury charged.
In addition, Bazzi has “business ties” to the “Ayman Joumaa Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Organization,” the U.S. department added.
“As Hizbullah’s chief benefactor, Iran is complicit in the despicable behavior of Bazzi. Specifically, Abdallah Safi-Al-Din, Hizbullah’s representative to Iran and cousin of Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah’s Secretary General, worked with Bazzi to reestablish a political relationship between The Gambia and Iran,” the Treasury claimed.
Moreover, Bazzi and Safi-Al-Din “previously worked with the Central Bank of Iran, which OFAC recently identified as being complicit in facilitating the IRGC-QF’s access to hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. currency, to expand banking access between Iran and Lebanon,” it added.
It noted that these designations by OFAC follow U.S. President Donald Trump's decision last week to withdraw Washington from the nuclear deal with Iran and to begin reimposing U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran.
Thursday's measures come a day after the United States and the six Arab Gulf countries imposed new sanctions targeting Nasrallah, his deputy Sheikh Naim Qassem and other senior officials of Hizbullah.