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  Treasury Targets Sanctions Evasion Conduits for Major Hizballah Financiers

WASHINGTON.- Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) further targeted the global business operations of Hizballah by designating two individuals and three entities acting as conduits for sanctions evasion schemes.

Specifically, OFAC designated Belgium-based Wael Bazzi for acting for or on behalf of his father and Hizballah financier, Mohammad Bazzi. OFAC designated Belgium-based Voltra Transcor Energy BVBA, Belgium-based OFFISCOOP NV, and United Kingdom-based BSQRD Limited for being owned or controlled by Wael Bazzi.

OFAC is also adding Energy Engineers Procurement and Construction as an alias for Global Trading Group NV (GTG), one of Mohammad Bazzi’s companies, which was designated in May 2018. Additionally, OFAC designated Lebanon-based Hassan Tabaja for acting for or on behalf of his brother and Hizballah member and financier, Adham Tabaja.

These individuals and entities were designated under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.

“Treasury is relentlessly pursuing Hizballah’s financial facilitators by dismantling two of Hizballah’s most important financial networks. As Hizballah continues to attempt to obscure its activities by using seemingly legitimate businesses, we will continue to take action against the front persons who hide the movement of money, including the relatives of designated terrorists,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “By targeting Hassan Tabaja and Wael Bazzi and their European-based companies, this Administration is continuing to disrupt all avenues of financial support relied upon by Hizballah.”

DESIGNATIONS BUILD ON REWARDS FOR JUSTICE PROGRAM
Today’s designation of Hassan Tabaja and Wael Bazzi and his companies builds on the State Department’s April 22, 2019 announcement of a Rewards for Justice (RFJ) reward offer for information leading to the disruption of Hizballah’s financial mechanisms. The program provides rewards for information that helps bring terrorists to justice, prevents international acts of terrorism against U.S. persons or property, leads to the identification or location of a key terrorist leader, or disrupts terrorist financing. OFAC is designating individuals and entities connected to two of the financiers highlighted in that announcement, Mohammad Bazzi and Adham Tabaja. For more information about the reward offer or to submit information on Hizballah’s financial networks, visit the Rewards for Justice website at www.rewardsforjustice.net or contact the Rewards for Justice office via the confidential e-mail at LH@rewardsforjustice.net.

Today’s action also builds on the unprecedented number of designations taken in 2018 exposing Hizballah’s terrorist support networks and pervasive use of seemingly legitimate businesses to launder money and foment regional conflict. Hizballah and its proxies continue to use deceptive practices to circumvent sanctions, such as the use of family members and others to gain access to the formal financial system both in Lebanon and beyond. As a standard practice, the regulated public should undertake know-your-customer due diligence to ensure awareness of the ultimate beneficiaries of transactions. In cases with known links to designated terrorists, enhanced due diligence should be applied to ensure that the underlying activity is not in violation of U.S. sanctions. The Treasury Department is determined to protect the integrity of the U.S., Lebanese, and international financial system to ensure that Hizballah cannot exploit them to further its political, financial, or operational agenda.

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these persons, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by the designated persons, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

Additionally, the two individuals and three entities designated today are subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations, which implements the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015. Pursuant to this authority, OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for Hizballah, or a person acting on behalf of or at the direction of, or owned or controlled by, Hizballah.

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.

BACKGROUND ON ADHAM TABAJA AND MOHAMMAD BAZZI
OFAC designated Adham Tabaja as an SDGT in June 2015 for providing support and services to Hizballah. Adham Tabaja is a Hizballah member and majority owner of the designated Lebanon-based real estate development and construction firm Al-Inmaa Group for Tourism Works and its subsidiaries. His company has been used by Hizballah as an investment mechanism. He maintains direct ties to senior Hizballah organizational elements, including the terrorist group’s operational component, the Islamic Jihad, the unit responsible for carrying out the group’s overseas terrorist activities. Specifically, Islamic Jihad member Husayn Ali Faour, whom OFAC designated concurrently with Adham Tabaja in June 2015, has worked with Adham Tabaja to secure and manage construction, oil, and other projects in Iraq. Adham Tabaja’s global network of seemingly legitimate businesses combined with his ties to Hizballah’s terrorist unit make it critically important that his access to the international financial system is severed to ensure that he cannot fund this terrorist group.

Adham Tabaja maintains ties to other major Hizballah financiers, including Mohammad Bazzi, whom OFAC designated as an SDGT in May 2018 for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Hizballah. Mohammad Bazzi, who operates or transacts in or through Belgium, Lebanon, Iraq, and several countries in West Africa, provided Hizballah financial assistance for many years and has provided millions of dollars to Hizballah generated from his business activities. In addition, Mohammad Bazzi was a close associate of Yahya Jammeh who was identified on December 20, 2017, in the annex to E.O. 13818, which implemented the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Since his designation in May 2018, Mohammad Bazzi has continued to work with other Treasury-designated, senior Hizballah members.

WAEL BAZZI
Wael Bazzi was designated for acting for or on behalf of Mohammad Bazzi.

Since his designation in May 2018, Mohammad Bazzi has turned to his son, Wael Bazzi, to continue doing business in the Gambia. Mohammad Bazzi has been able to conduct business through Wael Bazzi, upon whom he has continued to rely on to register new businesses and bid on Gambian government contracts. Wael Bazzi formed a petroleum company to maintain his father’s access to the oil industry. Additionally, Mohammad Bazzi coordinated with Wael Bazzi and a Belgium-based GTG employee to change GTG’s name after GTG’s designation. Wael Bazzi was the purported owner of this new company, likely to obscure Mohammad Bazzi’s involvement and circumvent Mohammad Bazzi‘s designation.

Wael Bazzi has helped Mohammad Bazzi and a Lebanon-based associate facilitate payments for a business contract. Additionally, Wael Bazzi likely established an account for Voltra Transcor Energy, in connection with Mohammad Bazzi’s attempted use of an intermediary company to move money to GTG and circumvent OFAC sanctions. In 2017, Mohammad Bazzi planned to submit his son, Wael Bazzi, to fill the Lebanese Consular position in the Gambia because he could exert his influence over Wael. As of at least early 2018, Wael Bazzi has been witting of Mohammad Bazzi’s involvement in illicit activity.

On August 9, 2018, GTG changed its name to Energy Engineers Procurement and Construction.

DESIGNATED WAEL BAZZI-OWNED OR -CONTROLLED COMPANIES
Voltra Transcor Energy BVBA
Voltra Transcor Energy BVBA was designated for being owned or controlled by Wael Bazzi.

Wael Bazzi is the Chief Executive of Belgium-based Voltra Transcor Energy BVBA, which is involved in the petroleum products industry. Wael Bazzi established an account for Voltra Transcor Energy, which Mohammad Bazzi attempted to use as an intermediary company to move money to GTG and circumvent OFAC sanctions.

OFFISCOOP NV
OFFISCOOP NV was designated for being owned or controlled by Wael Bazzi.

Wael Bazzi is the Chief Executive, Managing Director, and Director of Belgium-based OFFISCOOP NV, which is involved in the management consulting services industry.

BSQRD Limited
BSQRD Limited was designated for being owned or controlled by Wael Bazzi.

Wael Bazzi is the Chief Executive, Director, and 50% owner of United Kingdom-based BSQRD Limited, which is involved in the computer-related services industry.

HASSAN TABAJA
Hassan Tabaja was designated for acting for or on behalf of Adham Tabaja.

Hassan Tabaja managed multiple properties in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) belonging to his brother, Adham Tabaja; however, in the summer of 2018 Emirati authorities took swift action against Hassan Tabaja and the assets he controlled as a result of his nefarious activities. Hassan Tabaja is the legal representative for Adham Tabaja, has Power of Attorney (PoA) for him, and is named the executor of his property. Accordingly, Hassan Tabaja was granted the power to make legal, real estate, and financial decisions; sign for business matters; buy and sell vehicles; take out loans; take out insurance policies; and cancel the PoA and any agreements in conjunction with and on behalf of Adham Tabaja.

Hassan Tabaja, likely on behalf of Adham Tabaja, has also pursued business transactions with Mohamad Noureddine, a Lebanese money launderer, whom OFAC designated as a SDGT pursuant to E.O. 13224 in January 2016, for providing financial services to or in support of, Hizballah.

View identifying information on the individuals and entities designated today.

 

 

 

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Taiwan facing unprecedented challenges from China: official

TAIPEI, (CNA).- Taiwan's democracy is facing unprecedented challenges from China, Taiwan's Minister without Portfolio responsible for digital technology Audrey Tang (唐鳳) said during a trip in the United States, describing the situation as "precarious."

Tang sounded the alarm in a speech Saturday at the 31st annual convention meeting of the North America Taiwanese Women's Association (NATWA) in Detroit.

According to a summary of the speech posted on her Facebook page, Tang said Taiwan has been an important member of the global democratic camp over the past few decades and has never faced such stiff challenges in trying to maintain its status quo of freedom and democracy.

Tang said mounting pressure from Beijing against Taiwan, particularly increasing military threats, reflects Beijing's attempts to break the longstanding peaceful status quo across the Taiwan Strait, reiterating an argument made frequently recently by Taiwan's government.

Fortunately, like-minded countries and other countries in the region have displayed unprecedented concern and support for Taiwan, she said.

Tang noted, for example, that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the U.S. is taking various forms of action to prevent China from diplomatically isolating Taiwan.

Adm. Philip Davidson, the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, has said the U.S. remains committed to the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and that China's "one country, two systems" formula for unification with Taiwan does not reflect the wishes of the two sides, Tang said.

Tang added that when she met with Japanese officials during her visit to Tokyo last month, they told her they will fully support Taiwan's bid to participate in the World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Taking the opportunity, Tang also invited people to participate in an online event dubbed AIT@40 Digital Dialogues at https://talkto.ait.org.tw/ which was launched by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) to mark the 40th anniversary of the TRA.

The platform uses technology to promote diplomacy with the U.S. by allowing people who are concerned about Taiwan-U.S. relations to hold digital dialogues and set common cooperation goals, according to Tang.

Through the platform, some opinions such as "Taiwan can share its experience and expertise in many areas with the world" and "Taiwan is at the center of the U.S.'s Indo-Pacific strategy" have received a high approval rate, signaling that people in Taiwan and the U.S. share many common visions, Tang said.

Yet despite the support and assistance of so many world partners, the situation facing Taiwan could still be described as "precarious," Tang said.

Therefore, the government has begun to deal with issues such as the spread of misinformation that could destabilize society, meddling in Taiwan's elections through overseas funding, and the use of products presenting security threats to keep Taiwan from being taken over by the authoritarian regime in Beijing, she said.

(By Ku Chuan and Evelyn Kao)

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/aipl/201904210007.aspx

 

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Treasury Increases Pressure on Cuba to End Support to Maduro by Imposing Further Oil Sector Sanctions

WASHINGTON.- Today, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated four companies that operate in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy, pursuant to E.O. 13850, as amended. Additionally, OFAC identified nine vessels, some of which transported oil from Venezuela to Cuba, as blocked property owned by the four companies.

The United States is continuing to take strong action against the illegitimate regime of former President Nicolas Maduro, to include those that prop up Maduro’s regime and contribute to Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.

“We continue to target companies that transport Venezuelan oil to Cuba, as they are profiting while the Maduro regime pillages natural resources. Venezuela’s oil belongs to the Venezuelan people, and should not be used as a bargaining tool to prop up dictators and prolong oppression,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

“Maduro relies on the support he receives from the Cuban military and intelligence services to retain his hold on power because he does not have the support of the Venezuelan people.”

Today’s action further targets Venezuela’s oil sector, which continues to provide a lifeline to the illegitimate regime of former President Maduro:

Jennifer Navigation Limited is based in Monrovia, Liberia, and is the registered owner of Nedas.

Nedas is a crude oil tanker (IMO: 9289166) that delivered crude oil from Venezuela to Cuba during January and March of 2019.

Lima Shipping Corporation is based in Monrovia, Liberia, and is the registered owner of New Hellas.

New Hellas is a crude oil tanker (IMO: 9221891) that delivered crude oil from Venezuela to Cuba during February and March 2019.

Large Range Limited is based in Monrovia, Liberia, and is the registered owner of
S-Trotter.

S-Trotter is an oil products tanker (IMO: 9216547) that delivered oil products from Venezuela to Cuba during February and March 2019.

PB Tankers S.P.A. is based in Italy, and is the registered owner of several vessels, including Silver Point, Alba Marina, Gold Point, Ice Point, Indian Point, and Iron Point.

Silver Point is a chemical and oil tanker (IMO: 9510462) that delivered oil products from Venezuela to Cuba during March 2019.

Alba Marina is a floating storage tanker (IMO: 9151838).

Gold Point is a chemical and oil tanker (IMO: 9506693).

Ice Point is a chemical and oil tanker (IMO: 9379337).

Indian Point is a chemical and oil tanker (IMO: 9379325).

Iron Point is a chemical and oil tanker (IMO: 9388209).

For information about the methods that Venezuelan senior political figures, their associates, and front persons use to move and hide corrupt proceeds, including how they try to exploit the U.S. financial system and real estate market, please refer to Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) advisories FIN-2017-A006, “Advisory on Widespread Public Corruption in Venezuela,” FIN-2017-A003, “Advisory to Financial Institutions and Real Estate Firms and Professionals” and FIN-2018-A003, “Advisory on Human Rights Abuses Enabled by Corrupt Senior Foreign Political Figures and their Financial Facilitators.”

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these entities, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by the designated entities, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

U.S. sanctions need not be permanent; sanctions are intended to bring about a positive change of behavior. The United States has made clear that the removal of sanctions is available for persons designated under E.O. 13692 or E.O. 13850, both as amended, who take concrete and meaningful actions to restore democratic order, refuse to take part in human rights abuses, speak out against abuses committed by the illegitimate Maduro regime, and combat corruption in Venezuela.

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New law raises fines against illegal Chinese investments in Taiwan

TAIPEI, (CNA).- Taiwan's Legislature passed a law amendment Tuesday to sharply increase the maximum fine for illegal investments by Chinese interests, from NT$600,000 (US$19,456) to NT$25 million.

The revision to the Article 93-1 of the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area was put forth by the Cabinet, with the aim of stopping unauthorized funding in Taiwan by investors from China.

"It is necessary to raise the fine to effectively stop illegal investment by China investors," Cabinet officials have said, adding that such investments will cause chaos in the capital market.

In mid-January the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) slapped a fine of NT$60,000 on Dragon Peak International, a Hong Kong subsidiary of the Shanghai-based Longlife Group, over its purchase of local stocks through unauthorized channels.

Similar fines were imposed on Dragon Peak International twice in 2017 for the same reason, according to the FSC.

In January, the FSC said the Chinese enterprise held a share of more than 10 percent in a local company through illegal investments.

According to local media, the company was Tatung Co., a manufacturer of electronics and electrical products. 

(By Chen Chun-hua and Elizabeth Hsu)

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Statement of Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Following Fifth Finance Ministers’ Meeting on Venezuela

WASHINGTON.- U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin issued the following statement following the fifth finance ministers’ meeting on Venezuela:

“I welcomed Finance Ministers to the Treasury Department today to discuss Venezuela’s dire economic and humanitarian situation. This was the fifth such meeting, and the first since more than 50 countries recognized Interim President Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate Interim President. Participants in the meeting included officials from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, France, Germany, Guatemala, Guyana, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Portugal, Peru, Spain, and the UK.

“Previously, Finance Ministers have examined the involvement of Maduro regime insiders in diverting funds from the subsidized food program, and the regime’s use of illegal gold mining to help Maduro maintain power. Today, the Ministers reviewed steps taken since January to increase financial pressure on the Maduro regime and additional steps to support the democratically elected National Assembly and Interim President Guaidó.

“The Ministers then discussed plans for future economic support of Venezuela. We welcomed to this discussion Dr. Ricardo Hausmann, whom Interim President Guaidó has designated as coordinator of his economic advisors. The Ministers considered Interim President Guaidó’s economic policy vision to stabilize Venezuela’s financial system, root out public corruption, and spur economic growth.

“The Ministers also agreed to support robust engagement by the international financial institutions to assist Interim President Guaidó’s government as it prepares for new elections. The Ministers acknowledged that there may be a long and costly process of rebuilding Venezuela after many years of poor economic policies and kleptocracy.

“The Ministers discussed that very significant trade finance is needed to restart Venezuela’s private sector. We are committed to work with partners to prepare these mechanisms and we are prepared to work with Venezuela to provide technical assistance and capacity building.

“The Ministers agreed to monitor developments in Venezuela closely. We will continue to support Venezuela in its transition to a legitimate government as soon as possible to meet the people’s aspirations for a better life and democratic future.”

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