The United States Treasury Department sanctioned a Lebanese businessman for his support of the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, marking the first application of the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015, The Hill reported on Thursday. The act passed both houses of Congress unanimously, and was signed into law by President Obama last month.
The Treasury Department is targeting Ali Yousseff Charara and his telecommunications company, Spectrum Investment Group Holding SAL, for providing millions of dollars to the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah through material and financial contributions. Charara and his company’s U.S. based assets have been frozen, and Americans are now barred from doing business with either party.
The move was praised by the legislation’s two primary Senate sponsors, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D – N.H.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R – Fla.). Shaheen tweeted:
— Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (@SenatorShaheen) January 7, 2016
In a statement, Rubio said, “These financial sanctions are an important step to crack down on Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah by denying them critical financing they need to carry out their plots against America, Israel and our allies throughout the world.” Rubio is running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
The Treasury Department issued a statement announcing the sanctions and elaborating on Charara’s support for Hezbollah:
In addition to Charara’s facilitation of commercial investments on behalf of Hizballah, Charara has also worked on oil ventures in Iraq with Hizballah member Adham Tabaja and Hizballah financial supporter Kassem Hejeij, both of whom were previously designated by Treasury. Treasury designated Tabaja in June 2015 for his support to Hizballah through commercial ventures in Lebanon and Iraq. Tabaja has maintained direct ties to senior Hizballah officials and Hizballah’s operational component, the Islamic Jihad. Treasury also designated Hejeij at the same time for his role in facilitating Hizballah’s financial and commercial activities, including for opening bank accounts on behalf of Hizballah and providing credit to its procurement companies. Additionally, Charara has extensive business interests in the telecommunications industry in West Africa.
Adam J. Szubin, acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, explained, “Hizballah relies upon accomplices in the business community to place, manage, and launder its terrorist funds.” He added, “We are committed to exposing and disrupting these networks to pressure Hizballah’s finances and degrade its ability to foment violence in Lebanon, Syria, and across the region.”
In September, Iran announced that it was boosting its funding of Hezbollah and the Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas in anticipation of the sanctions relief it is expecting to receive from the nuclear deal.
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