Beirut: The pro-Hezbollah Lebanese daily Al Akhbar reported in its Wednesday edition that several Lebanese banks started implementing the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act, which the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of Treasury introduced in December 2015, as a condition to doing business with the Lebanon.
Al Akhbar claimed that unnamed sources confirmed that the banking accounts of Hezbollah institutions, including the “Imdad Committee for Islamic Charity,” the “Martyrs’ Foundation” and the “St. George Hospital,” were suspended along with “hundreds or maybe thousands of other accounts.”
These same sources anticipated additional closures in the weeks ahead, although it was unclear why organisations, schools, and hospitals were targeted for retribution. The newspaper did not provide any details on links between the groups that saw accounts closed or suspended, with Hezbollah, although it identified the affected charities
Several hospitals that were affiliated with the Martyrs’ Foundation, including the Al Rasul Al ‘Azam facility in Beirut, Baalbek Hospital, West Bekaa Hospital and other health, social and educational institutions that served a variety of patients, allegedly were no longer able to engage in banking transactions.
OFAC aimed to hit the sources of funding that Hezbollah enjoyed or accessed, along with individuals who “knowingly facilitate a significant transaction or transactions for” Hezbollah or any individual, business or institution linked to the group.
Last month, the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) declared that it would abide by the US law, which came into effect in April 2016, because that was in “Lebanon’s interests.” At the time, the Governor of the Central Bank, Riad Salameh, declared that Beirut accepted US restrictions in the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act, because Lebanon’s economy was intrinsically tied with global financial institutions. It was unclear, however, why non-political institutions were targeted or whether Al Akhbar’s reportage was in fact accurate.