On June 6, six Arab Gulf countries sanctioned three Iranians for helping fund the Qods Force, which conducts the external operations of the Revolutionary Guards, and Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party and militia. The three are:
- Meghdad Amini and Ali Qasir, who directed a network that funneled tens of millions of dollars – from sales of gold, electronics and foreign currency – to the Qods Force and Hezbollah.
- Morteza Hashemi, who used multiple companies in Hong Kong and China to launder “vast sums” of money. He also “directed” Chinese nationals to create bank accounts and serve as “straw owners” of companies that bought “dual use” American products--used for either civilian and military purposes—for shipment to Iran.
The Arab nations – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – also designated Saraya al Mukhtar and Saraya al Ashtar, two terrorist groups active in Bahrain that have received support from Iran. The United States had already sanctioned the three men and two groups.
The U.S. Treasury announced the joint action by members of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC). The TFTC, co-chaired by the United States and Saudi Arabia, was created in 2017 to coordinate efforts to disrupt the finances and operations of terrorist organizations. “Over the past five years, TFTC member states have addressed a broad range of terrorist financing activity in the Arabian Peninsula, with the goal of strengthening regional defenses and capabilities to counter terrorist financing,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. The following are excerpts from the Treasury announcement:
“Today, members of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC) sanctioned 16 individuals, entities, and groups affiliated with a variety of regional terrorist organizations. All of these targets have been previously designated by the United States. The targets included three individuals associated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), four ISIS-associated individuals and one company, six Boko Haram financiers, and terrorist groups Saraya al-Ashtar and Saraya al-Mukhtar. This TFTC designation action marks the fifth year of coordinated TFTC sanctions actions targeting terrorist financing.
“The Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC) was created to enhance multilateral efforts among the United States and the Gulf countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — to counter regional money laundering and terrorist financing networks. TFTC members counter these networks through three primary lines of effort: identifying, tracking, and sharing information about terrorist financing networks; coordinating joint disruptive actions; and offering capacity-building training and assistance in countering the financing of terrorism.
“Over the past five years, TFTC member states have addressed a broad range of terrorist financing activity in the Arabian Peninsula, with the goal of strengthening regional defenses and capabilities to counter terrorist financing,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “The TFTC’s actions today signal the determination and commitment of TFTC member states to continue to work towards these goals, as well as unity in the commitment to root out the full scope of terrorist financing activity. The TFTC is a clear demonstration of the Biden-Harris Administration’s multilateral approach to strengthening the reach of our sanctions through coordination with key partners.”
"Ali Qasir, Meghdad Amini, and Morteza Hashemi are part of two networks directed by and providing financial support to the IRGC-QF and its terrorist proxy Hizballah. These complex networks of intermediaries allow the IRGC-QF to obfuscate its involvement in selling Iranian oil. The IRGC-QF also relies on these individuals to launder money for Hizballah officials and front companies and to broker associated contracts.
"IRGC-QF and Hizballah financial facilitators Amini and Qasir direct a network of nearly 20 individuals and front companies, located in multiple countries and jurisdictions, that has facilitated the movement and sale of tens of millions of dollars’ worth of gold, electronics, and foreign currency in support of Hizballah and the IRGC-QF.
"Hashemi controls multiple companies based out of Hong Kong and mainland China and has used his access to the international financial system to launder vast sums of money for the IRGC-QF and Hizballah. He has directed People’s Republic of China nationals to establish bank accounts and serve as straw owners for his companies. On Hashemi’s behalf, these individuals also purchased U.S.-origin, dual-use products for onward shipment to Iran.
"Meghdad Amini was designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in May 2018 pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended, for his role in helping the IRGC-QF transfer cash out of Iran to the UAE for conversion into U.S. dollars. Ali Qasir was previously designated by OFAC in September 2019 pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended, for acting for or on behalf of IRGC-QF official Rostam Ghasemi, who oversaw a vast network involved in oil sales on behalf of the IRGC-QF. Morteza Hashemi was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended, for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF and Hizballah. More details are available here."
IRGC-AFFILIATED TERRORIST GROUPS
"TFTC members also designated Saraya al-Mukhtar and Saraya al-Ashtar, two terrorist groups affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
"Saraya al-Mukhtar is an Iran-backed terrorist organization based mainly in Bahrain but with links to other similar groups elsewhere, reportedly receiving financial and logistic support from the IRGC. Saraya al-Mukhtar’s self-described goal is to pave the way for Iran to exert greater influence in Bahrain and beyond. The group has plotted attacks against U.S. personnel in Bahrain and has repeatedly offered cash rewards for the assassination of Bahraini officials.
"The Department of State designated Saraya al-Mukhtar as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) on December 15, 2020. More information is available here.
"Saraya al-Ashtar, also known as al-Ashtar Brigades (AAB), is another group with distinct ties to the IRGC. Established in 2013, AAB is an Iran-directed terrorist organization aimed at destabilizing the region. AAB has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks against police and security targets in Bahrain. In March 2014, AAB conducted a bomb attack that killed two several police officers. AAB also calls for violence against the Bahraini, British, Saudi Arabian, and U.S. governments on social media.
"In January 2018, AAB changed its logo and flag to formally adopt Iran’s IRGC branding and in a public statement reaffirmed its loyalty to Tehran to reflect its role in an Iranian network of state and non-state actors that operates against the United States and its allies in the region. Additionally, AAB members have received weapons and explosives from Iran as well as training at IRGC-funded camps in Iraq, and senior members have taken refuge in Iran and elsewhere to evade prosecution by Bahraini authorities.
"The Department of State designated AAB as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and a SDGT in July 2018, as well as two of its leaders as SDGTs in March 2017. More information is available here."