Terrorism

US sanctions Hizbullah-linked financial networks supporting terrorism

By Al-Mashareq

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A closed money exchange office in Beirut on June 11, 2020. Lebanon is in the grips of its worst economic crisis in decades, while Hizbullah and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) continue to perpetuate instability in Lebanon and throughout the region. [Joseph Eid/AFP]

WASHINGTON -- The United States on Friday (September 17) designated over 20 individuals and entities that it said have been supporting terrorism by funding Hizbullah and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF).

The sanctions include Lebanon- and Kuwait-based members of a financial network that funds Hizbullah, as well as members of an international network of financial facilitators and front companies that operate in support of Hizbullah and the IRGC-QF.

"Together, these networks have laundered tens of millions of dollars through regional financial systems and conducted currency exchange operations and trade in gold and electronics for the benefit of both Hizbullah and the IRGC-QF," the US Treasury Department said in a statement.

"Hizbullah, with the support of the IRGC-QF, uses the revenues generated by these networks to fund terrorist activities, as well as to perpetuate instability in Lebanon and throughout the region," it said.

"Hizbullah and the IRGC-QF continue to exploit the international financial system to finance acts of terrorism," said Andrea M. Gacki, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

The actions taken Friday "underscore the direct ties between Hizbullah's global financial network and terrorist activities", the statement said.

Financiers in Lebanon, Kuwait

Hizbullah has been exploiting Lebanon's commercial sector for financial and material support, which enables it to carry out acts of terrorism and degrade Lebanon's political institutions, said the US Department of Treasury.

Among sanctioned individuals is Hasib Muhammad Hadwan, also known as Hajj Zayn, a senior official of Hizbullah's General Secretariat who is responsible for raising funds from donors and businessmen outside Lebanon.

Also sanctioned is Ali al-Shair, Hadwan's office manager, who has been accepting financial contributions on behalf of Hizbullah since 2000.

The Treasury also designated Kuwait-based Talib Husayn Ali Jarak Ismail and Jamal Hussain Abd Ali Abdelrahim al-Shatti.

Ismail is accused of co-ordinating the transfer of millions of dollars to Hizbullah from Kuwait through al-Shatti. He also travelled to Lebanon to meet with Hizbullah officials in order to donate money to the group.

Trafficking gold, electronics, foreign currency

The Treasury sanctioned Meghdad Amini and Ali Qasir for financially supporting Hizbullah and the IRGC-QF.

Amini and Qasir head a network of some 20 individuals and front companies, located in multiple countries and jurisdictions, that facilitates the movement and sale of tens of millions of dollars' worth of gold, electronics and foreign currency, the Treasury said.

Their team of trusted subordinates includes Omid Yazdanparast, Mohammad-Ali Damirchilu and Samaneh Damirchilu, who facilitate the smuggling of gold and currency from Iran to Turkey via commercial flights operated by US-designated Iranian airline Mahan Air.

Mohammad Reza Kazemi facilitates gold sales in Turkey. Once the gold is sold, the proceeds are returned to Iran through the same process, whereupon they are transferred to Amini and Qasir.

Samaneh Damirchilu has also worked with Qasir to facilitate the sale of Iranian oil to foreign buyers.

All four were included in Friday's designations.

Also designated are Mostafa Puriya and Hossein Asadollah for selling electronics on behalf of this network in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) through the Dubai-based company Hemera Infotech FZCO.

China-based financiers

China-based businessman Morteza Minaye Hashemi is sanctioned for using his access to the international financial system to launder large sums of money for the IRGC-QF and Hizbullah through foreign currency conversions and gold sales.

In co-ordination with Kazemi, who facilitates gold sales, Hashemi has laundered tens of millions of dollars for the IRGC-QF and Hizbullah through foreign currency conversions and gold sales, the Treasury said.

Hashemi has also been involved in financial transfers associated with Mohammadreza Khedmati, another IRGC-QF financial facilitator designated in May 2018 alongside Amini for providing support to the IRGC-QF.

Hashemi controls multiple companies based out of Hong Kong and mainland China. He is aided by Chinese nationals Yan Su Xuan and Song Jing who, at the direction of Hashemi, have helped him establish bank accounts and serve as straw owners for his companies.

Yan Su Xuan, has also purchased US-origin, dual-use products for onward shipment to Iran on Hashemi's behalf.

Several companies are also directly or indirectly designated for being owned, controlled, or directed by, Hashemi or Song Jing.

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