Qatar, US sanction Hizbullah financial network

By Al-Mashareq

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with Qatari government officials before boarding an aircraft to depart from Old Doha Airport on September 8. [Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with Qatari government officials before boarding an aircraft to depart from Old Doha Airport on September 8. [Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP]

WASHINGTON -- The United States and Qatar on Wednesday (September 29) announced they have taken co-ordinated actions against a major Hizbullah financial network based in the Gulf.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the move as "one of the most significant joint actions we have taken with a Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) partner to date".

The joint action with Doha "underscores our extensive bilateral co-operation on countering terrorism finance", he said.

The seven designated individuals are Ali Reda Hassan al-Banai, Ali Reda al-Qassabi Lari, Abd al-Muayyid al-Banai, Abd al-Rahman Abd al-Nabi Shams, Yahya Muhammad al-Abd-al-Muhsin, Majdi Faiz al-Ustadz and Sulaiman al-Banai.

Qatar-based Aldar Properties also was slapped with sanctions.

Ali al-Banai and Lari are longstanding supporters of Hizbullah and have secretly sent tens of millions of dollars to the party through the formal financial system and cash couriers, the US Treasury said.

They both regularly met with Hizbullah officials in Lebanon and Iran.

Ali al-Banai and his brother, Abd al-Muayyid, held joint accounts in several banks, transferred funds to Hizbullah as recently as late 2020, and maintained ties to senior Hizbullah associates, the Treasury said.

In 2017, Ali al-Banai planned to transfer millions of dollars to a senior Hizbullah official from a bank account from which Hizbullah representatives could also withdraw and transfer funds, it said.

Meanwhile, it added, Lari has been providing financial support to Hizbullah since 2000, when he would deliver cash to the party during his trips to Lebanon.

During a trip to Iran, Lari met with a high-ranking Hizbullah official to transfer funds to the group.

As of 2018, the Treasury said, he was involved in financial facilitation activities supporting Hizbullah and worked with al-Banai to move money from Qatar to Hizbullah-run organisations.

Ali al-Banai's Bahrain-based nephew, Shams, co-ordinated the development of two real estate projects in Bahrain and the delivery of funds to Gulf-based individuals on his uncle's behalf.

As of 2019, Ali al-Banai had transferred millions of Qatari riyals to an account held by Shams.

Bahrain also took action by freezing Shams' bank accounts and will prosecute three people, the Treasury said.

Growing recognition of Hizbullah's 'true nature'

"Hizbullah seeks to abuse the international financial system by developing global networks of financiers to fill its coffers and support its terrorist activity," said Andrea M. Gacki, who directs the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The cross-border nature of the financial network underscores the importance of continued co-operation with international partners, such as Qatar, to protect the US and international financial systems from terrorist abuse, she said.

Both the United States and Qatar have designated Hizbullah as a terrorist organisation.

"There is growing international recognition of Hizbullah's true nature, with 14 countries in Europe and South and Central America taking significant steps to designate, restrict, or ban Hizbullah in the past several years," Blinken said.

"We urge other governments to follow suit."

The United States on September 17 designated more than 20 individuals and entities it said were supporting terrorism by funding Hizbullah and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF).

Among them were members of a financial network that funds Hizbullah based in Lebanon and Kuwait and an international network of financial facilitators and front companies that operate in support of Hizbullah and the IRGC-QF.

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