US Sanctions Two Ex‐Lebanese Government Ministers for Providing ‘Material Support’ to Hezbollah
Two former Lebanese government ministers were targeted by the US Treasury Department on Tuesday for their links to Hezbollah — the Iranian regime’s Shi’a terrorist proxy in Lebanon.
In a statement, the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) confirmed that it had placed sanctions on ex-ministers Yusuf Finyanus and Ali Hassan Khalil. Both men had “provided material support to Hezbollah and engaged in corruption,” OFAC said.
The OFAC statement asserted that the latest designations “underscore how some Lebanese politicians have conspired with Hezbollah at the expense of the Lebanese people and institutions.”
“The United States supports the Lebanese people in their calls for a transparent and accountable government free of corruption,” the statement noted. “The catastrophic explosion at the port of Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020, has amplified these urgent calls, and the US government stands firmly in support of the Lebanese people’s demands.”
Finyanus served as Minister of Transportation and Public Works in the Lebanese government from 2016 until last month, when it collectively resigned following the Beirut blast.
According to OFAC, “as of mid-2019, Hezbollah used its relationship with officials in the Lebanese government, including Finyanus as Minister of Transportation and Public Works, to siphon funds from government budgets to ensure that Hezbollah-owned companies won bids for Lebanese government contracts worth millions of dollars.”
Khalil previously served as the Minister of Finance (2014-2020) and Minister of Public Health (2011-2014).
According to OFAC, as finance minister, Khalil shifted Hezbollah funds “in a manner that would avoid US sanctions enforcement from government ministries to Hezbollah-associated institutions.”
Additionally, Khalil used his position”to attempt to have US financial restrictions on Hezbollah eased, so that the group would have less difficulty moving money,” OFAC explained.
Commenting on Tuesday’s designations, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that “corruption has run rampant in Lebanon, and Hezbollah has exploited the political system to spread its malign influence.”
Mnuchin added that the US “will continue to use its authorities to target those who oppress and exploit [the Lebanese people].”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated, “Today’s designations demonstrate that Lebanese politicians who have provided a false veneer of political legitimacy to Hezbollah or abused their positions to direct public funds to the terrorist group are as responsible for its entrenched influence as Hezbollah’s own members or the corrupt businessmen and money launderers that have helped fund the group for decades.”
“Hezbollah depends on Lebanon’s corrupt political system for survival,” he added. “Anyone helping to advance Hezbollah’s political or economic interests is further eroding what remains of effective governance and facilitating financing for terrorism. The Lebanese people deserve better, and the United States will continue to support their calls for an end to corruption and political stagnation.”