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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

OFAC sanctions key Hizballah money exchanger

Financial Crimes Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Department of Treasury OFAC Designations OFAC Sanctions Hizballah SDN List Lebanon

Financial Crimes

On January 24, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13224 against several individuals and associated entities, including a Lebanese money exchanger and a money service business, for facilitating financial activities for Hizballah. Commenting that Treasury “is taking action against a corrupt money exchanger, whose financial engineering actively supports and enables Hizballah and its interests at the expense of the Lebanese people and economy,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson issued a warning that the U.S. is committed to holding persons accountable should they “exploit their privileged positions for personal gain.” The sanctions follow designations imposed last month against several individuals and companies that manage and enable Hizballah’s financial operations throughout Lebanon, including Hizballah’s “quasi-financial institution” and its central finance unit. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) 

As a result of the sanctions, all property, and interests in property of the designated persons, “and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly 50 percent or more by them, individually, or with other blocked persons, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, must be blocked and reported to OFAC.” OFAC regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within the United States (including transactions transiting the United States) that involve any property or interests in property of designated persons unless authorized by an OFAC general or specific license. OFAC further cautioned that “engaging in certain transactions with the individuals and entities designated today entails risk of secondary sanctions,” and noted that the designated persons are also subject to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations. Pursuant to these regulations, “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 either knowingly conducted or facilitated any significant transaction on behalf of an SDGT or, among other things, knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for Hizballah or certain persons designated for their connection to Hizballah.”