The US sanctions the Lebanese deputy and businessmen linked to Hezbollah

The US Treasury on Thursday imposed sanctions on two major Lebanese contractors and a lawmaker close to the Hezbollah movement for alleged large-scale corruption that undermined the rule of law in Lebanon.

Businessmen Jihad al-Arab and Dany Khoury, close to former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and Christian politician Gebran Bassil respectively, were punished for alleged corruption related to state contracts.

Lawmaker Jamil Sayyed was sanctioned for allegedly seeking to “circumvent national banking policies and regulations” and transfer $ 120 million abroad, “allegedly to enrich himself and his associates,” according to a statement from the Treasury.

Sayyed did not respond to a request for comment and wrote on Twitter that he would hold a press conference on Friday to discuss the matter.

The Treasury alleged that Khoury and Arab received state contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, including for garbage collection and disposal jobs, thanks to political connections.

Khoury did not immediately respond to a request for comment and Arab could not be reached.

Hezbollah supporters in Lebanon carry the coffin of a person who died in the violence in Beirut on Thursday, during his funeral in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon (credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR / REUTERS)

The accusations come amid an unprecedented economic crisis in Lebanon attributed to years of bad policies and corruption by the ruling elite that, according to the UN, has left three-quarters of the population affected by poverty.

Khoury had won a $ 142 million contract to operate a coastal landfill and has been “accused of dumping toxic waste and waste into the Mediterranean Sea … all while failing to remedy the garbage crisis,” according to the release.

Meanwhile, Al Arab “served as a go-between starting in 2014 to mediate a meeting between top Lebanese officials ahead of the Lebanese presidential elections, in exchange for two government contracts valued at approximately $ 200 million.”

Thursday’s sanctions mark the first time a close associate of Hariri, a pro-Western figure, has been sanctioned by the United States, which previously targeted Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies.

“The Americans are sending a message to the entire political class, not only those backed by Iran, but also the Lebanese people that they have not turned away,” Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, told Reuters. .

“They echo the Lebanese people by saying, ‘everyone means everyone,'” Yahya said, referring to a catchphrase popularized during massive street protests against the government in 2019.

Washington sanctioned Bassil in 2020 along with former Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil and former Minister of Public Works Youssef Fenianos, alleging corruption and material support for Hezbollah.

Thursday’s sanctions “also include specific allegations about Sayyed’s money transfer after the revolution. This is new and has an impact on Hezbollah’s reputation,” said Mohanad Hage Ali, a researcher at the Carnegie Middle East Center.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken characterized the new sanctions on Twitter as “an important step in promoting accountability in Lebanon.”

“Lebanese officials must end corruption and take urgent action to address the crises facing the Lebanese people,” he said.

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