TEL AVIV – The Lebanese treasury recently started paying the salaries of Hezbollah ministers in cash in an attempt to evade sanctions from a new U.S. law targeting the terror organization, according to an Arab news media report.
The London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, quoting sources within the Lebanese parliament, reported that the country started its cash-only policy two months ago to bypass the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act (HIFPA), which sanctions international financial institutions that facilitate Hezbollah’s activities.
The goal of the bill is to “prevent Hezbollah’s global logistics and financial network from operating in order to curtail funding of its domestic and international activities,” and to “utilize diplomatic, legislative, and executive avenues to combat Hezbollah’s criminal activities in order to block that organization’s ability to fund its global terrorist activities.”
A delegation from the U.S. Treasury, led by Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing Daniel Glaser, visited Lebanon last week to meet with Lebanese officials and to encourage financial institutions to combat terrorism by enforcing the sanctions, the report said.
Banque du Liban (BDL), Lebanon’s central bank, has already begun the process of shutting down accounts linked to Hezbollah officials and the bank’s governor, Riad Salameh, assured the delegation that he would comply with HIFPA.
Glaser explained that the law does not target Lebanon or the Shi’ite community, but he stressed that neither does it “make a distinction between Hezbollah members. The law is very clear. If you engage knowingly in a significant financial transaction with Hezbollah, then you become subject to this law.”
The Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star reported that Hezbollah denounced the bill, calling it a “crime” against it and all the liberals in the world. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned Lebanese banks not to “submit to the will of America.” The terror group also threatened Lebanese financial institutions that if they implemented the sanctions, “complete chaos” would erupt in the country.
Pro-Hezbollah dailies Al-Akhbar and Al-Safir reported that the Shi’ite group is striking back by telling members of the public to boycott the banks by withdrawing their funds. The reports, which were translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), said that bank accounts belonging to Hezbollah supporters comprise a 30-40% share of the economy.