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January 24, 2023 5:55 pm
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US Sanctions Lebanese Economist for Hezbollah Ties

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avatar by Andrew Bernard

A supporter of Lebanon’s Hezbollah gestures as he holds a Hezbollah flag in Marjayoun, Lebanon May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo

The US Treasury Department on Tuesday sanctioned a Lebanese economist accused of running a currency exchange company as a front for Hezbollah.

Hassan Moukalled founded CTEX Exchange in 2021 amid Lebanon’s ongoing financial crisis, which has seen the Lebanese pound – pegged, officially, to the US dollar at a 1500:1 – balloon at a nearly 190% inflation rate in 2022, with informal exchange rates now closer to 50,000:1.

The Treasury Department alleges that Moukalled used that crisis to collect millions of US dollars from the Lebanese Central Bank, money that he and his sons then passed along to Hezbollah.

“Despite Moukalled’s attempts to maintain a facade as a financial expert and economist, he is in fact an opportunistic businessman exploiting Lebanon’s suffering population to financially support the Hezbollah terrorist organization, and even help it secure weapons,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday. “Today’s action is another warning to those who provide support to terrorist groups that the United States will continue to pursue accountability for these actions.”

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According to the Treasury, Moukalled has worked with Hezbollah finance official Muhammad Qasir to facilitate business deals throughout the region and with Russia, including to procure weapons for the terrorist group.

In 2016, Moukalled acknowledged to the AFP that he had acted as an intermediary between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Central Bank. He said at the time that US sanctions on Lebanese banks that dealt with Hezbollah had little effect on the group because Hezbollah’s “budget doesn’t run through the formal banking mechanism — it’s like a war economy.”

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