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US sanctions former Lebanon government ministers for connections to Hezbollah
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US sanctions former Lebanon government ministers for connections to Hezbollah

The US Department of the Treasury (USDT) sanctioned Tuesday two former Lebanese government ministers, claiming they conspired with Hezbollah against the people of Lebanon.

The USDT has accused Yusuf Finyanus, Lebanon’s former Minister of Public Transportation and Public Works (2016-2020), of trading political favors for hundreds of thousands of dollars from Hezbollah. These favors included ensuring Hezbollah-owned companies won contracts worth millions, assisting Hezbollah with gaining access to sensitive legal documents, and serving as a go-between for Hezbollah and their political allies.

Also included in the expanded sanctions is Ali Hassan Khalil. Khalil was Lebanon’s Minister of Public Health from 2011-2014 and Minister of Finance from 2014-2020. The USDT claims Khalil assisted Hezbollah in moving money in manner that would avoid US sanctions enforcement. Further, he attempted to have financial restrictions, imposed by the US, eased so Hezbollah could more easily move money. As Finance Minister, Khalil solicited kickbacks, demanding a portion of the contracts.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced:

Today’s designations demonstrate that Lebanese politicians who have provided a false veneer of political legitimacy to [Hezbollah] or abused their positions to direct public funds to the terrorist group are as responsible for its entrenched influence as [Hezbollah]’s own members or the corrupt businessmen and money launderers that have helped fund the group for decades.

The US Department of State designated Hezbollah a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997. Commenting on the expanded sanctions, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said: “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.”

The sanctions come in the wake of a devastating explosion in Beirut, which killed more than 200 people. The explosion triggered protests against government negligence and corruption. In response, the entirety of Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet resigned, including Finyanus and Khalil. Reacting to the explosion, civil unrest, and resignation of the cabinet the Lebanese parliament has been granted sweeping military powers.