Israel welcomed the US’ new set of sanctions leveled against Lebanese officials linked to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror organization and its “destructive and corrupt grip on the Lebanese government and people.”
The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on Tuesday sanctioned former Lebanese government ministers Yusuf Finyanus and Ali Hassan Khalil, who provided material support to Hezbollah and “engaged in corruption.”
OFAC noted that these designations “underscore how some Lebanese politicians have conspired with Hezbollah at the expense of the Lebanese people and institutions.”
It explained that some Lebanese political leaders have “used backdoor deals and reliance on Hezbollah for personal gain and gains for their political allies ahead of the needs of the Lebanese people.”
Yusuf Finyanus is the former Minister of Transportation and Public Works. As of mid-2019, Hezbollah used its relationship with officials in the Lebanese government, including Finyanus, to siphon funds from government budgets to ensure that Hezbollah-owned companies won bids for Lebanese government contracts worth millions of dollars.
In 2015, Hezbollah gave Finyanus hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for political favors. Also in 2015, Finyanus met regularly with Wafiq Safa, whom the US Treasury designated in 2019 for his leadership role in Hezbollah’s security apparatus.
Finyanus also helped Hezbollah gain access to sensitive legal documents related to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and served as a go-between for Hezbollah and political allies. In addition to his activities supporting Hezbollah, Finyanus engaged in corruption while in his position as Minister of Transportation and Public Works by diverting funds from the ministry to offer perks to bolster his political allies.
Ali Hassan Khalil previously served as the Minister of Finance and Minister of Public Health. As Minister of Finance, Khalil was one of the officials Hezbollah leveraged a relationship with for financial gain. In late 2017, shortly before the Lebanese parliamentary elections that would take place in May 2018, Hezbollah leaders, fearing a weakening of their political alliance with the Shiite Amal Movement, reached an agreement with Khalil where he was prepared to receive Hezbollah support for his political success. Khalil worked to move money in a manner that would avoid US sanctions enforcement from government ministries to Hezbollah-associated institutions.
Additionally, Khalil used his position as Minister of Finance to attempt to have US financial restrictions on Hezbollah eased so that the group would have less difficulty moving money.
Khalil also used the power of his office to exempt a Hezbollah affiliate from paying most taxes on electronics imported to Lebanon, and a portion of what was paid was collected to support Hezbollah.
As of late 2019, Khalil as Finance Minister refused to sign checks payable to government suppliers in an effort to solicit kickbacks. He demanded that a percentage of the contracts be paid to him directly.
As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the targeted individuals, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly by them, that are in the US or in the possession or control of US persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.
“The freezing of assets linked to Hezbollah and exposing individuals’ gains from deals with the terrorist organization is a testament to Hezbollah’s destructive and corrupt grip on the Lebanese government and people,” stated Alon Ushpiz, Director-General of Israel’s Foreign Minister.