ISSN 2330-717X

US Treasury Targets Hezbollah Finance Official And Shadow Bankers In Lebanon

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The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on Tuesday designated seven individuals in connection with Hezbollah and its financial firm, Al-Qard al-Hassan (AQAH).  AQAH, which was designated by OFAC in 2007, is used by Hezbollah as a cover to manage the terrorist group’s financial activities and gain access to the international financial system.  

Ibrahim Ali Daher (Daher) serves as the Chief of Hezbollah’s Central Finance Unit, which oversees Hezbollah’s overall budget and spending, including the group’s funding of its terrorist operations and killing of the group’s opponents.  The other six individuals designated today used the cover of personal accounts at certain Lebanese banks, including U.S.-designated Jammal Trust Bank (JTB), to evade sanctions targeting AQAH and transfer approximately half a billion U.S. dollars on behalf of AQAH.

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

While AQAH purports to serve the Lebanese people, in practice it illicitly moves funds through shell accounts and facilitators, exposing Lebanese financial institutions to possible sanctions.  AQAH masquerades as a non-governmental organization (NGO) under the cover of a Ministry of Interior-granted NGO license, providing services characteristic of a bank in support of Hezbollah while evading proper licensing and regulatory supervision.  By hoarding hard currency that is desperately needed by the Lebanese economy, AQAH allows Hezbollah to build its own support base and compromise the stability of the Lebanese state.  AQAH has taken on a more prominent role in Hezbollah’s financial infrastructure over the years, and designated Hezbollah-linked entities and individuals have evaded sanctions and maintained bank accounts by re-registering them in the names of senior AQAH officials, including under the names of certain individuals being designated today.  

Daher is being designated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, as amended, for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Hezbollah.

Daher leads Hezbollah’s Central Finance Unit, which oversees the receipt of Hezbollah’s worldwide income and is responsible for managing and auditing the budgets of all Hezbollah units and departments, including coordinating the payment of all Hezbollah members.  Daher and the Central Finance Unit, which is comprised of dozens of officers, operate within the group’s Executive Council, and with direction from Hassan Nasrallah on where to distribute funds.  In this capacity, Daher has been a key figure in Hezbollah’s financial infrastructure for well over a decade.

Ahmad Mohamad Yazbeck (Yazbeck), Abbas Hassan Gharib (Gharib), Wahid Mahmud Subayti (Subayti), Mostafa Habib Harb (Harb), Ezzat Youssef Akar (Akar), and Hasan Chehadeh Othman (Othman) are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended, for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, AQAH.

The AQAH officials designated today have all participated in evasive “shadow” banking activity.  Yazbeck, Gharib, Harb, Akar, and Othman maintain joint bank accounts in Lebanese banks that have allowed them to transfer more than $500 million within the formal financial system over the past decade, despite existing sanctions against AQAH.

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Yazbeck, AQAH’s financial director, and Gharib, AQAH’s informatics manager, both hold several “shadow accounts” through which transactions are conducted on Hezbollah’s behalf.  Harb, Akar, and Othman also hold “shadow accounts” through which transactions are conducted on Hezbollah’s behalf.  Another AQAH official, Subayti, has also been involved in conducting transactions through “shadow accounts” on behalf of Hezbollah.  Subayti previously played a similar role in maintaining bank accounts in his own name along with other senior Bayt al-Mal officials.  Hezbollah’s Bayt al-Mal, along with the Central Finance Unit, acted as Hezbollah’s finance ministry.

Hezbollah was designated by the Department of State as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) pursuant to E.O. 13224 on October 31, 2001.  AQAH was designated as an SDGT on July 24, 2007, pursuant to E.O. 13224, for being owned or controlled by, and providing support to, Hezbollah

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