Stock Money laundering
“Hezbollah uses revenues generated by these networks to fund terrorist activities and to perpetuate instability in Lebanon and throughout the region,” the US said. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Abu Dhabi: Kuwait woke up on Thursday to a scandal that brought to mind the case of the Abdali cell, and the accusations that its members were communicating with the Iranian authorities and the Lebanese Hezbollah, and receiving weapons training by leaders in the party inside Lebanon.

The US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a new network to support, finance, and launder money for the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, operating in full cooperation and coordination between Beirut and Kuwait, local media reported.

“While the Kuwait’s Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance, the Financial Intelligence Unit, and the Anti-Corruption Commission adhered to complete ‘incomprehensible or unjustified’ silence, and none of them issued any comment, the United States said on Friday it was imposing sanctions on Lebanon and Kuwait-based financial conduits that fund the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah as well as financial facilitators and front companies that support the group and Iran,” Al Seyassah daily reported.

Gold and electronics

“These networks have laundered tens of millions of dollars through regional financial systems and conducted currency exchange operations and trade in gold and electronics for the benefit of both Hezbollah and the IRGC-QF,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, referring to Iran’s Quds force, the arm of its Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) that controls its allied militia abroad.

“Hezbollah uses revenues generated by these networks to fund terrorist activities and to perpetuate instability in Lebanon and throughout the region,” the statement said.

“Kuwaiti citizen, Talib Hussain Ali Jarek Ismail, coordinated the transfer of millions of dollars to Hezbollah from Kuwait through his compatriot Jamal Hussain Abd Ali Abdul Rahim Al Shatti, and he also travelled to Lebanon to meet with Hezbollah officials to donate money to the group,” US Treasury Department said.

The department revealed that the total funds and assets that were frozen due to “terrorist” activities and sponsorship of terrorism amounted to $203.518 million during 2020.

And the report - which was referred by the Treasury Department last week to Congress - showed that “the total funds belong to 64 terrorist organisations”. Hezbollah was at the top of the list in terms of frozen amounts, with its funds amounting to about $23 million, while Al Qaida ranked second with $3.8 million.

The Treasury Department said the sanctions would involve the seizure of Us-based property of the individuals and entities and prohibition of all transactions with them.

US ambassador to Kuwait, Alina Romanonsky, said on Twitter,“The United States has imposed sanctions on financial networks operating from Lebanon and Kuwait and financing Hezbollah. We will continue to work with our allies and partners to protect the financial system, to protect people around the world from violence and terrorism.”

An official source explained to Al Seyassah that “freezing the accounts of the accused in the money laundering case requires a court ruling or a decision from the attorney general.”

He said, “The sanctions of the US Treasury are not binding on Kuwait, especially since they were not issued by the United Nations.”

The source stated that “the accused can deal normally on their accounts so far, but they cannot transfer money from their accounts outside Kuwait after the United States announced the sanctions,” pointing out that “the financial investigations and money laundering committees in Kuwait will investigate during the coming period about the Kuwaiti defendants’ money.”