Treasury Targets Iranian-Backed Hizballah Officials for Exploiting Lebanon’s Political and Financial System
ZETA.- Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated key Hizballah political and security figures leveraging their privileged positions to facilitate Hizballah’s malign agenda and do Iran’s bidding. Specifically, OFAC designated Hizballah Members of Parliament Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Ra’d, and Hizballah security official Wafiq Safa, for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah. These individuals were designated under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.
“Hizballah uses its operatives in Lebanon’s parliament to manipulate institutions in support of the terrorist group’s financial and security interests, and to bolster Iran’s malign activities” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “Hizballah threatens the economic stability and security of Lebanon and the wider region, all at a cost to the Lebanese people. The United States will continue to support efforts of the Lebanese government to protect its institutions from exploitation by Iran and its terrorist proxies, and to secure a more peaceful and prosperous future for Lebanon.”
This action highlights how Hizballah uses its political power to corrupt and exploit Lebanon’s financial and security elements, taking advantage of the country’s democratic system and values. Today’s designations also underscore that there is no distinction between Hizballah’s political and violent activities. Hizballah itself makes no distinction between its military and political wings, as Hizballah’s own leaders have acknowledged publicly, including Muhammad Hasan Ra’d, who said in 2001, “Hizballah is a military resistance party…. There is no separation between politics and resistance.”
Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Ra’d are Hizballah members of the Lebanese Parliament. As a Hizballah Member of Parliament, Sherri exploits his political office to advance Hizballah's objectives, which often run counter to the benefit of the Lebanese people and government. His efforts to threaten Lebanese financial institutions on behalf of Hizballah, as noted below, demonstrate the extreme steps he takes to advocate for Hizballah’s agenda of intimidation and violence, at the cost of a legitimate sector that is the backbone of the Lebanese economy. Sherri’s behavior threatening bank employees and their family members is unacceptable for a Member of Parliament whose office should advance the interests of the Lebanese people.
Ra'd is both a Member of Parliament and a member of Hizballah’s Shura Council, which directs Hizballah units to carry out overseas military and terrorist attacks. As Hizballah's “highest command,” the Shura Council is responsible for deciding religious and strategic matters, and has overall administrative, planning, and policy-making powers. Rather than advocating for political decisions that would address the economic plight of the communities he represents, he continues to prioritize Hizballah’s activities and hold Lebanon’s prosperity hostage. The designation of Ra’d who heads Hizballah’s Parliamentary Council, one of the Shura Council’s five subordinate councils, builds upon previous actions targeting Hizballah’s Shura Council.
The third individual designated today, Wafiq Safa, serves as a Hizballah interlocutor to the Lebanese security forces. As the head of Hizballah's security apparatus, which is directly linked to Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, Safa has exploited Lebanon's ports and border crossings to smuggle contraband and facilitate travel on behalf of Hizballah, undermining the security and safety of the Lebanese people, while also draining valuable import duties and revenue away from the Lebanese government.
Hizballah was designated by the Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 1997 and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (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.
Amin Sherri (Sherri) was designated for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.
As a Hizballah Member of Parliament, Sherri serves as an interlocutor for Hizballah's interests within the Lebanese community and has used the weight of his representative role within Hizballah to influence decision making and pressure financial institutions to assist Hizballah in limiting the impact of U.S. sanctions. For example, Sherri, on behalf of Hizballah, threatened Lebanese bank officials and their family members after the bank froze the accounts of U.S.-designated Hizballah member, whom OFAC designated as an SDGT for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Hizballah.
Sherri’s illicit activities are also apparent in his extensive ties to other Hizballah associates and financiers. Sherri has maintained a close relationship with Adham Tabaja, a Hizballah financier, whom OFAC designated as an SDGT in June 2015 for providing support and services to Hizballah. Sherri and Tabaja have continued to do business together despite the latter’s designation. Sherri and Tabaja, among others, founded and were involved in a Lebanon-based company. Sherri also facilitated Tabaja's access to Lebanese banks and was directed by Hizballah Secretary General Nasrallah to settle issues related to his designation.
Underscoring the lack of distinction between Hizballah’s political and military activities, Sherri also appears publically with Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) Commander Qasem Soleimani, whom OFAC designated in October 2011, for acting for or on behalf of the IRGC-QF (see photo below).