US imposes sanctions against Hezbollah-linked Lebanese companies
The United States blacklisted several companies and individuals it says are linked to Lebanon's Hezbollah, in another round of sanctions against the Iran-backed group.
The US Treasury Department targeted a Lebanon-based investment firm and its subsidiaries along with several individuals linked to it, accusing them of being owned or controlled by Hezbollah's Martyrs Foundation.
The department listed Beirut-based Atlas Holding and its affiliates as "Specially Designated Global Terrorists". The designation freezes the targeted individuals' and companies' assets in the US and prohibits Americans from doing business with them.
The sanctions will also affect Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi, Jawad Nur-al-Din and Sheikh Yusuf Aasi, whom the Treasury accused of being senior officials at Atlas Holding and the Martyrs Foundation.
Aasi was identified last year by a Hezbollah-linked magazine as a senior aide to the general secretary of the Martyrs Foundation, which allocates monthly allowances to the families of Hezbollah fighters killed, captured or wounded in battle.
The US Treasury said Nur-al-Din is the leader of the foundation. According to Lebanese media reports, he also serves on Hezbollah's shura council - the group's governing body. Bazzi was identified in the US statement as the CEO of Atlas Holding.
Washington also designated 11 companies affiliated with the investment firm, including petrol and pharmaceutical businesses.
The sanctions come at a time when Lebanon's Central Bank is struggling to stabilise the country's currency amid widespread anger at the government's corruption and mismanagement.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has been piling sanctions on Hezbollah and Lebanon's banking sector as a part of its maximum pressure campaign against Iran.
Earlier this month, Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, called for boycotting American products in response to sanctions. "Economically, they are trying to subdue the entire world through sanctions," he said.
On Wednesday, the US Treasury blamed Hezbollah for Lebanon's economic woes.
"Hezbollah profits from the sale of goods vital to the Lebanese peoples’ health and economy, such as pharmaceuticals and gasoline," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
"The Trump administration stands with the Lebanese people, and we are committed to exposing and holding accountable Hezbollah's terror-funding business schemes."