US Sanctions Hezbollah Leaders and Financing Network

May 21, 2018

Treasury sealOn May 16, the U.S. Treasury Department partnered with seven member states of the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center to designate Hezbollah senior leadership, including Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah. “Under the dictates of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), Secretary General and head of the Shura Council Hasan Nasrallah is prolonging the human suffering in Syria, fueling the violence in Iraq and Yemen, putting the Lebanese state and the Lebanese people at risk, and destabilizing the entire region," said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. 

On the following day, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Hezbollah's financing network, its third action in a week against individuals with ties to Iran and its Central Bank. The Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Hezbollah financier Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi and his Iranian representative Abdallah Safi al Din. “This action highlights the duplicity and disgraceful conduct of Hizballah and its Iranian backers.  Despite Nasrallah’s claims, Hizballah uses financiers like Bazzi who are tied to drug dealers, and who launder money to fund terrorism,” Mnuchin said. The following are press releases. 

 

Treasury and the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center Partner Together to Sanction Hizballah's Senior Leadership

MAY 16, 2018

Today, the seven member nations of the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center (TFTC) took significant actions to disrupt an Iranian-backed terrorist group by designating the senior leadership of Lebanese Hizballah.  The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the co-chair of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), and the other TFTC member states – the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Kuwait, the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – designated members of Hizballah’s Shura Council, the primary decision-making body of Hizballah.  Specifically, OFAC, together with Gulf partners, designated Hasan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hizballah.  OFAC and the TFTC nations further designated Naim Qasim, Muhammad Yazbak, Husayn Al- Khalil, and Ibrahim al-Amin al-Sayyid pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.  In addition, TFTC Member States also designated the following key Hizballah-affiliated individuals and entities: Talal Hamiyah, Ali Youssef Charara, Spectrum Group, Hasan Ebrahimi, Maher Trading, Hashem Safieddine, Adham Tabaja, Al-Inmaa Group, and Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting, all of whom were previously designated by the U.S.

“The TFTC again demonstrated its great value to international security by disrupting Iran and Hizballah’s destabilizing influence in the region.  By targeting Hizballah’s Shura Council, our nations collectively rejected the false distinction between a so-called ‘Political Wing’ and Hizballah’s global terrorist plotting,” said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin.  “Under the dictates of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), Secretary General and head of the Shura Council Hasan Nasrallah is prolonging the human suffering in Syria, fueling the violence in Iraq and Yemen, putting the Lebanese state and the Lebanese people at risk, and destabilizing the entire region.”   

This is the second TFTC designation action since the center was announced on May 21, 2017.  The TFTC is a bold and historic effort to expand and strengthen the seven member states’ cooperation to counter the financing of terrorism.  The TFTC facilitates coordinated disruptive actions, sharing of financial intelligence information, and member state capacity-building to target terrorist financing networks and related activities that pose national security threats to TFTC members. 

These designations follow President Trump’s decision last week to cease U.S. participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and to begin reimposing U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on the Iranian regime.  They are in furtherance of the goal of addressing the totality of Iran’s malign activities and regionally destabilizing behavior, including that of Hizballah.  These designations complement disruptive action Treasury took last week to shut down an extensive currency exchange network in Iran and the UAE that was transferring millions to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), and they build upon actions taken yesterday targeting Iran’s Central Bank Governor and Iraqi-based al-Bilad Islamic Bank for moving millions of dollars for the IRGC-QF to enrich and support the violent and radical agenda of Hizballah.  Today’s action also expands the number of Hizballah-related individuals and entities designated by Gulf states, building upon prior actions by the Gulf Cooperation Council in March 2016.  

BACKGROUND ON THE SHURA COUNCIL

The Shura Council is Hizballah’s supreme decision-making body responsible for religious, military, and strategic matters and asserts control over administrative, planning, and policy-making authorities.  In the event of a deadlock in the Shura Council, the Supreme Leader of Iran casts the deciding vote.  There are five subordinate councils of the Shura Council: (1) the Executive Council, which oversees the daily activities of Hizballah; (2) the Parliamentary Council, which selects Hizballah’s nominees for parliamentary elections and ensures that the parliamentary representatives carry out the Shura Council’s decisions and policies; (3) the Political Council, which manages relationships with Lebanon’s political parties; (4) the Jihad Council, which oversees all of Hizballah’s military and security operations, deliberates on fighting strategy and tactics, and assesses threats to the organization; and (5) the Judicial Council, which organizes judicial representatives who work with Hizballah on conflict resolution and ensures compliance with their law.

HASAN NASRALLAH

Hasan Nasrallah (Nasrallah) was designated for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah, which he has led since 1992.  As the Secretary General and head of the Shura Council, Nasrallah is Hizballah’s highest-ranking official and exercises direct command over Hizballah’s military and security apparatus as its supreme commander, including its involvement in the war in Syria.  Nasrallah has stated that Hizballah’s intervention in the war in Syria marked a completely new phase for the organization, sending military forces abroad to protect its interests.

OFAC previously designated Nasrallah as a Specially Designated Terrorist pursuant to E.O. 12947, “Prohibiting Transactions with Terrorists Who Threaten to Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process,” on January 23, 1995, and pursuant to E.O. 13582, “Blocking Property of the Government of Syria and Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to Syria,” on September 13, 2012.

NAIM QASIM

OFAC and the TFTC designated Naim Qasim (Qasim) for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  Qasim is the Deputy Secretary General of Hizballah, which he joined in the early 1980s.  Before ascending to his current position, he served as the Deputy President of the Executive Council.  Qasim has stated that Hizballah does not separate its military and political wings.  Specifically, he has said that Hizballah “has one single leadership, and its name is the Decision Making Shura Council.  It manages the political activity, the jihad activity, the cultural activity, and the social activities.”

MUHAMMAD YAZBAK

OFAC and the TFTC designated Muhammad Yazbak (Yazbak), one of Hizballah’s original founders, for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  Yazbak is the current leader of the Judicial Council and has overseen a military command in central Lebanon that provides logistical and training support to Hizballah.  He has supervised training camps and the smuggling of weapons, and hosted experts from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to train Hizballah fighters on weapons systems.  Yazbak has also managed Hizballah’s bank accounts.

HUSAYN AL-KHALIL

OFAC and the TFTC designated Husayn Al-Khalil, Hasan Nasrallah’s political advisor, for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  Previously, he was one of several senior Hizballah commanders who shared responsibility for the group’s special operations in Europe.

IBRAHIM AL-AMIN AL-SAYYID

OFAC and the TFTC designated Ibrahim al-Amin al-Sayyid (al-Sayyid) for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  Al-Sayyid is the head of Hizballah’s Political Council.  He was Hizballah’s first official spokesperson and was involved in the formation of Hizballah.

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of Hasan Nasrallah, Naim Qasim, Muhammad Yazbak, Husayn Khalil, and Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyid that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.  OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

Each of the five individuals designated today are subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations, which implement the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015.  Pursuant to this authority, OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on opening or maintaining in the United States a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for Hizballah, or a person acting on behalf of, at the direction of, or that is owned or controlled by, Hizballah.

 

Additional TFTC Member State Designations:

TALAL HAMIYAH

Talal Hamiyah (Hamiyah) is the head of Hizballah's External Security Organization (ESO), which maintains organized cells worldwide.  The ESO is the Hizballah element responsible for the planning, coordination, and execution of terrorist attacks outside of Lebanon.  OFAC designated Hamiyah on September 13, 2012 pursuant to E.O. 13224.

HASHEM SAFIEDDINE

Hashem Safieddine (Safieddine) is a senior leader in Hizballah and a key member of Hizballah’s executive council.  The Department of State designated Safieddine on May 19, 2017 pursuant to E.O. 13224.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia joined the United States in designating Safieddine on the same day.

ALI YOUSSEF CHARARA AND SPECTRUM GROUP

Ali Charara (Charara) has facilitated commercial investments on behalf of Hizballah.  Charara's company, Spectrum Investment Group Holding SAL, is a Lebanon-based telecommunications company that provides integrated telecommunications services in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.  OFAC designated Charara and the Spectrum Group pursuant to E.O. 13224 on January 7, 2016.

ADHAM TABAJA, AL-INMAA GROUP, AND AL-INMAA ENGINEERING AND CONTRACTING

Adham Tabaja (Tabaja) maintains direct ties to senior Hizballah organizational elements, including the terrorist group’s operational component, the Islamic Jihad, and holds properties in Lebanon on behalf of the group.  Tabaja is the majority owner of the Lebanon-based real estate development and construction firm Al-Inmaa Group.  The company’s subsidiaries include Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting which has been used by Hizballah as an investment mechanism. Tabaja has used the Iraqi branches of Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting to obtain oil and construction development projects in Iraq that provide both financial support and organizational infrastructure to Hizballah.   OFAC designated Tabaja, Al-Inmaa Group, and Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting pursuant to E.O. 13224 on June 10, 2015.   The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia designated Tabaja, Al-Inmaa Group, and Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting in November 2015.

HASAN EBRAHIMI AND MAHER TRADING

Hasan Ebrahimi, an IRGC-QF official based in Beirut, Lebanon has facilitated cash transfers to Hizballah worth millions of dollars.  Ebrahimi is the manager of Maher Trading, which has been used to launder funds and smuggle goods to Hizballah.  OFAC designated Ebrahimi and Maher Trading pursuant to E.O. 13224 on February 3, 2017.

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Treasury Targets Key Hizballah Financing Network and Iranian Conduit

OFAC Designation

 

MAY 17, 2018

Action disrupts Hizballah’s global business empire in Europe, Africa, and Middle East

Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Hizballah financier Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi and Hizballah’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.  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.

“This action highlights the duplicity and disgraceful conduct of Hizballah and its Iranian backers.  Despite Nasrallah’s claims, Hizballah uses financiers like Bazzi who are tied to drug dealers, and who launder money to fund terrorism,” said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin.  “The savage and depraved acts of one of Hizballah’s most prominent financiers cannot be tolerated.  This Administration will expose and disrupt Hizballah and Iranian terror networks at every turn, including those with ties to the Central Bank of Iran.”

As a result of today’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.  OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

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 Hizballah, 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.  In addition, Bazzi has business ties to the Ayman Joumaa Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Organization.  As Hizballah’s chief benefactor, Iran is complicit in the despicable behavior of Bazzi.  Specifically, Abdallah Safi-Al-Din, Hizballah’s representative to Iran and cousin of Hasan Nasrallah, Hizballah’s Secretary General, worked with Bazzi to reestablish a political relationship between The Gambia and Iran.  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.

These designations by OFAC follow President Trump’s decision last week to cease U.S. participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and to begin reimposing U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on the Iranian regime.  They are in furtherance of the goal of addressing the totality of Iran’s malign activities and regionally destabilizing behavior, including that of Hizballah.  These designations complement the disruptive action Treasury took last week to shut down an extensive currency exchange network in Iran and the UAE that was transferring millions to Iran’s IRGC-QF.  This action is also in addition to two other actions taken this week targeting IRGC-QF and Hizballah financing, including an action against Iran’s Central Bank Governor and an action taken with Terrorist Financing Targeting Center partners designating Hizballah’s Shura Council and other leaders and financiers.  Today’s actions further restrict Hizballah’s access to the U.S. financial system and the Iranian regime’s network of regional proxy groups.

MOHAMMAD IBRAHIM BAZZI

Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi (Bazzi) was designated for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Hizballah. 

Bazzi, who operates or transacts in or through Belgium, Lebanon, Iraq, and several countries in West Africa, is a key Hizballah financier who has provided Hizballah financial assistance for many years and has provided millions of dollars to Hizballah generated from his business activities.  

Bazzi maintains ties to Hizballah financiers Adham Tabaja (Tabaja) and Ali Youssef Charara (Charara), whom OFAC designated as SDGTs for providing material support to Hizballah on June 10, 2015 and January 7, 2016, respectively.  Between 2009 and 2010, Abdallah Safi-Al-Din, also designated today, and Bazzi worked with the Central Bank of Iran to expand banking access between Iran and Lebanon.  Abdallah Safi-Al-Din was previously identified by Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) as being involved in Iranian officials’ access to former Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB), which FinCEN identified on February 10, 2011 as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act for the bank’s role in facilitating the money laundering activities of an international narcotics trafficking and money laundering network. 

In addition to providing millions of dollars to Hizballah, Mohammad Bazzi is a close associate of Yahya Jammeh who was identified on December 20, 2017, in the annex to E.O. 13818, which implemented the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.  Further, Bazzi has business ties to the Ayman Joumaa Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Organization, which OFAC designated on January 26, 2011 pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.  Bazzi also worked to provide funds to Tabaja, with whom he held a joint line of credit. 

ABDALLAH SAFI-AL-DIN

Abdallah Safi-Al-Din (Safi Al-Din) was designated for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  Safi Al-Din is Hizballah’s representative to Iran and acts as a conduit between Iran and Hizballah.  He has also has served as the interlocutor between Hizballah and Iran on financial issues.  As of 2011, Safi-Al-Din and Bazzi worked together to resolve a dispute between Iran and The Gambia and reestablish a political relationship between the two countries.  Safi-Al-Din is the cousin of Hizballah’s Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah (Nasrallah), whom OFAC designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 on May 16, 2018, E.O. 13582 on September 13, 2012, and also pursuant to E.O. 12947 on January 23, 1995. 

 

DESIGNATED BAZZI-OWNED OR -CONTROLLED COMPANIES

 

GLOBAL TRADING GROUP NV

Global Trading Group NV (GTG) was designated for being owned or controlled by Bazzi.  Bazzi is one of the founders and a Managing Director of GTG, a global energy products and services company headquartered in Antwerp, Belgium that also has locations in Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Ivory Coast, and Benin.  As of 2015, Bazzi, as an owner of GTG, had drafted two securities totaling approximately $1 million to operate and maintain two power plants in Lebanon. 

EURO AFRICAN GROUP LTD

Euro African Group LTD (EAGL) was designated for being owned or controlled by Bazzi.  Bazzi is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director and majority shareholder of EAGL, a petroleum and petroleum products company located in Banjul, The Gambia.  GTG, in collaboration with EAGL, claims to have been the exclusive importer of all fuel products into The Gambia since 2003.

AFRICA MIDDLE EAST INVESTMENT HOLDING SAL

Africa Middle East Investment Holding SAL (AME Investment) was designated for being owned or controlled by Bazzi.  Bazzi is the Chairman, Managing Director, and majority shareholder of AME Investment, a holding company located in Beirut, Lebanon.    

PREMIER INVESTMENT GROUP SAL OFFSHORE

Premier Investment Group SAL Offshore (PIG Offshore) was designated for being owned or controlled by Bazzi.  Bazzi is the founder, Chairman, Managing Director, and majority shareholder of PIG Offshore, a financial services company in Beirut, Lebanon. 

CAR ESCORT SERVICES S.A.L. OFF SHORE

Car Escort Services S.A.L. Off Shore (CES), an import/export company based in Lebanon, was designated for being owned or controlled by Bazzi and Charara, who collectively own two-thirds of the company. 

These five companies should not be viewed as an exhaustive list of companies owned or controlled by Bazzi, and the regulated community remains responsible for conducting necessary due diligence and maintaining compliance with OFAC’s 50 percent rule.

Each of the two individuals and five entities designated today are subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations, which implements the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015.  Pursuant to this authority, OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for Hizballah, or a person acting on behalf of or at the direction of, or owned or controlled by, Hizballah.

Hizballah was designated by the Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 1997 and as an SDGT pursuant to E.O. 13224 in October 2001.  It was listed in January 1995 in the Annex to E.O. 12947, which targets terrorists who threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process, and also designated in August 2012 pursuant to E.O. 13582, which targets the Government of Syria and its supporters. 

Today’s action was conducted in coordination with several U.S. partners, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division’s Counter-Narcoterrorism Operations Center (CNTOC) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center (NTC).

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