The US Department of Treasury on Friday (February 2nd) imposed sanctions on six individuals and seven entities affiliated with one of Hizbullah's top financiers.
The move follows a January announcement of a newly formed US Justice Department task force to combat Hizbullah "narco-terrorism", and the recent conclusion of a Treasury delegation visit to Beirut.
Meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun on January 22nd, the delegation, headed by Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea, sent a clear message that the US would be helping Lebanon combat money laundering.
Aoun in turn reiterated Lebanon's commitment to fighting drug trafficking, the financing of terrorism and money laundering.
Meanwhile, the US and Argentina on Sunday announced they will work together more closely to cut off Hizbullah's funding networks in Latin America.
The newest sanctions target individuals and entities working for Hizbullah financier Adham Tabaja or his company, al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting.
Tabaja has been on the Treasury blacklist since June 2015, along with al-Inmaa, which was reportedly used to win oil and development projects in Iraq to provide financial support and regulatory infrastructure for Hizbullah.
Tabaja is the majority shareholder in al-Inmaa, which engages in the real estate and contracting sectors and has several branches in Lebanon and Iraq. He is a well-known businessman and invests in several fields of interest to Hizbullah.
Sanctioned individuals and entities
The sanctioned individuals have been named as Lebanese citizens Jihad Muhammad Qansu, Ali Muhammad Qansu, Issam Ahmad Saad, Nabil Mahmoud Assaf, Abdul Latif Saad and Muhammad Badr-Al-Din.
Jihad Muhammad Qansu, who holds dual Lebanese and Venezuelan citizenship, is the financial manager of al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting and is a business associate of Tabaja, helping him with accounting and banking matters.
Ali Muhammad Qansu, who resides in Beirut and Sierra Leone, has a longstanding business relationship with Tabaja and maintains millions of dollars in bonds for him. He also maintains relations with Hizbullah affiliates.
Issam Ahmad Saad is managing partner and minority shareholder in Al-Inmaa and Nabil Mahmoud Assaf is the company's manager of purchasing and a minority shareholder. Abdul Latif Saad manages the company's Baghdad branch, and Muhammad Badr-Al-Din manages the Basra branch.
Also facing sanctions are Sierra Leone-based Blue Lagoon Group Ltd. and Kanso Fishing Agency Limited; Ghana-based Star Trade Ghana Ltd.; Liberia-based Dolphin Trading Co. Ltd., Sky Trade Company and Golden Fish Liberia; and Lebanon-based joint stock company Golden Fish (offshore), all of which are owned or operated by Ali Muhammad Qansu.
Tabaja target of previous sanctions
"Adham Tabaja had been placed on the list of sanctions before," Lebanese MP Yassine Jaber of the Development and Liberation Bloc told Al-Mashareq.
In June 2015, the Treasury imposed sanctions on Tabaja, al-Inmaa and its subsidiaries, and two other individuals, Kassem Hejeij and Husayn Ali Faour.
Also designated was Car Care Centre, a front company based in Lebanon that supports Hizbullah’s transportation needs.
According to the Treasury, these actions "underscore the direct ties between Hizbullah’s commercial and terrorist activities".
They reveal its "continued exploitation of the legitimate commercial sector for financial, organisational, and material support – from vehicles to investment and construction services – which enable the group to carry out acts of terrorism".
Violette Balaa, editor-in-chief of Arab Economic News, noted that the newest sanctions do not target Lebanon's Shia community.
The sanctions "declare a clear war on Hizbullah", she said.
The sanctions require "Lebanon's banks to be vigilant in their daily operations to monitor the movement of accounts", she told Al-Mashareq.
The banks must "open the door wide for direct co-operation and co-ordination with the Bank of Lebanon" to ensure good compliance, she said.