US sanctions Lebanon-based firms, person for links to Hezbollah

US has blacklisted a Hezbollah official and two Lebanese companies it says are linked to the Iran-backed group.

Beirut port blast aftermath
A man stands next to graffiti at the damaged port area in the aftermath of a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon in August [File:Hannah McKay/Reuters]

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on a Hezbollah official and two Lebanon-based companies it accused of being linked to the Iran-backed group, the US Treasury Department said.

The Treasury in a statement said it blacklisted Arch Consulting and Meamar Construction, two Lebanon-based companies it said were leveraged by Hezbollah to conceal money transfers to the group’s own accounts, helping enrich Hezbollah’s leadership.

Also hit with sanctions was Sultan Khalifah As’ad, who the Treasury described as a senior Hezbollah Executive Council official.

“Through Hizballah’s exploitation of the Lebanese economy and manipulation of corrupt Lebanese officials, companies associated with the terrorist organization are awarded government contracts,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.

“The United States remains committed to targeting Hizballah and its supporters as they corruptly abuse Lebanese resources to enrich their leaders while the Lebanese people suffer from inadequate services,” he added.

The action freezes any US assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them. Those that engage in certain transactions with those designated are also at risk of being hit with secondary sanctions, the Treasury said.

Thursday’s move follows US action this month that blacklisted two former government ministers over accusations they enabled Hezbollah as Washington warned that more actions targeting the group were coming.

Fifteen years after the assassination of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, heavily armed group Hezbollah has risen to become the overarching power in a country that is now collapsing under a series of devastating crises.

Lebanon’s banks are paralysed, its currency has crashed and sectarian tensions are rising. On top of that, a huge port blast last month smashed a large swath of Beirut, killing more than 190 people and causing damage estimated at up to $4.6bn.

Source: Reuters