TEL AVIV – The Trump administration announced Monday that it is offering up to $10 million for any information leading to the disruption of terror group Hezbollah’s financial networks in a bid to bankrupt the terror organization.
It marks the first time that a monetary reward has been offered for intelligence relating to the Iranian-backed group’s funding.
A Forbes report recently claimed Hezbollah to be the richest terror organization in the world, with an estimated annual income of $1.1 billion.
The announcement comes on the heels of the U.S. increasing pressure on Iran, of which Hezbollah is a proxy. On Monday, the U.S. announced that as of next month it would cease waiving sanctions on countries that purchase oil from Iran, including China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said bankrupting Hezbollah was one of the U.S.’s chief aims in its ongoing quest to choke Iran economically.
“We have watched Iran have diminished power as a result of our campaign,” he said. “Their capacity to wreak harm around the world is absolutely clearly diminished. I talked about it with respect to Hezbollah not being able to make payroll in a timely fashion.”
The Lebanon-based terror group is largely funded by Tehran, but has a vast network ranging from business investments, private donors and money laundering activities.
The State Department deemed Hezbollah a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 1997, and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in October 2001.
The U.S. said it would issue monetary rewards for any information identifying and thwarting “a source of revenue for Hezbollah or its key financial facilitation mechanisms … major Hezbollah donors or financial facilitators … financial institutions or exchange houses facilitating Hezbollah transactions … businesses or investments owned or controlled by Hezbollah or its financiers … front companies engaged in international procurement of dual-use technology on behalf of Hezbollah” and “criminal schemes involving Hezbollah members and supporters which financially benefit the organization.”
“I’m confident that the (reward) that we are offering today will provide incentives for people to come forward with information that will help us take down Hezbollah’s financial networks,” said Assistant Secretary for State for Diplomatic Security Michael T. Evanoff in a press briefing at the State Department.
The State Department highlighted three individuals as key Hezbollah financiers or facilitators about whom it seeks information: Adham Tabaja, Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi and Ali Youssef Charara.
“We will leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of information that will help us clamp down further on these individuals and on others they use to access the international financial system,” said Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea. “Either directly or via cash smuggling networks and other seemingly legitimate businesses and investments.”
“We will pay for bank records, customs forms, real estate transactions and anything evidencing money laundering or cash smuggling,” he continued. “The United States government is prepared to pay for this information, and we will award up to $10 million for leads that result in financial disruption. Whether by US law enforcement sanctions or other enforcement actions.”
In 2017, Politico published a report called “The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook” in which it exposed Hezbollah’s money laundering network and other crimes, which the Obama administration allowed to go unpunished as it hoped to close the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.