US sanctions Lebanese bank over Hezbollah ties

The U.S. on Thursday labeled a Lebanon-based bank a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” for its alleged role in providing financial services to Hezbollah as Lebanon continues to reel from a dire financial situation.

The Treasury Department said Jammal Trust Bank and its subsidiaries are being designated because it has “knowingly” facilitated banking activities for the Lebanese group that is subject to U.S. sanctions.

Sigal Mandelker, Treasury’s terrorism and financial intelligence official, said the action serves as a “warning” to any party who provides services to Hezbollah.

“Jammal Trust provides support and services to Hizballah’s Executive Council and the Martyrs Foundation, which funnels money to the families of suicide bombers,” he said in a statement announcing the penalties. “The U.S. will continue to work with the Central Bank of Lebanon to deny Hizballah access to the international financial system.”

In addition to the bank, the Treasury Department designated its subsidiaries Trust Insurance, Trust Insurance Services and Trust Life Insurance Company.

A senior U.S. official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity said Jammal Trust is Lebanon’s 26th largest bank, brushing off concerns that the designation could further hamper Lebanon’s already-hobbled economy.

“We believe its role in the Lebanese economy and the financial system is limited,” she said. “It’s not our expectation that this will have a spillover effect. What I think it will do is send the message loud and clear to that community that the United States is very, very serious about disrupting Hezbollah’s financing, and we are going to continue to take action where we believe it’s warranted.”

In a separate action, the U.S. announced that it is blacklisting four financial facilitators who the Treasury Department said are responsible for moving tens of millions of dollars between Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force and Hamas.

Among those designated is Beirut, Lebanon-based Muhammad Sarur who the department said transfers tens of millions of dollars between the two parties annually.

Also blacklisted are Kamal Abdelrahman Aref Awad, an alleged Gaza-based Hamas financier, and Gaza-based Fawaz Muhmud Ali Nasser and Muhammad Kamal al-Ayy.

Nasser worked with al-Ayy, Treasury alleged using the U.S.’s preferred spelling of Hezbolah, “to transfer Iranian funds through Hizballah to HAMAS and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”