Photo Credit: US Embassy in Jerusalem
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at the Kotel, October 28, 2019.

The US Treasury Department on Tuesday slapped sanctions on Lebanon’s former transport and finance ministers Yusuf Finyanus and Ali Hassan Khalil who “provided material support to Hezbollah and engaged in corruption.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin issued a statement saying, “Corruption has run rampant in Lebanon, and Hezbollah has exploited the political system to spread its malign influence. The United States stands with the people of Lebanon in their calls for reform and will continue to use its authorities to target those who oppress and exploit them.”

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement: “Hezbollah depends on Lebanon’s corrupt political system for survival. Anyone helping to advance Hezbollah’s political or economic interests is further eroding what remains of effective governance and facilitating financing for terrorism.”

The Treasury Dept. explained that it is freezing any US assets of the two blacklisted Lebanese politicians and bars American individuals and corporations from dealing with them. Americans who engage in transactions with them would risk being hit with secondary sanctions.

According to the US Treasury, Finyanus accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars” from Hezbollah and in return used his office as Transport Minister to guarantee government bids went to Hezbollah-owned firms. Finyanus also served as “a go-between” for Hezbollah, and helped Hezbollah gain access to sensitive legal documents related to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the 2005 assassination of former PM Rafic Hariri and the deaths of 21 others. In August, the panel has cleared the Hezbollah leadership of responsibility for the assassination.

Former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil was another Lebanese officials in Hezbollah’s pocket, according to the US Treasury, which accused him of moving money for Hezbollah to avoid US sanctions. Khalil used his office to gain sanctions relief for Hezbollah, in return for a personal commission which he collected from government contracts.

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