Saturday, May 18, 2019

U.S.-Lebanon Joint Military Commission (JMC)

News Release
Press Operations
Release No: NR-124-19
IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17 2019

Senior delegations from the United States and Lebanon met May 16-17 in Washington, D.C. for the fourth meeting of the U.S.-Lebanon Joint Military Commission (JMC).  

The JMC is the premier bilateral forum for senior U.S. and Lebanese government and military officials to discuss ongoing security assistance and military cooperation, as well as develop plans for our robust security partnership.

The delegations discussed a broad range of diplomatic and security challenges throughout the region, including the crisis in Syria and ways to continue combatting violent extremism.

"Lebanon is a critical partner for security in the Middle East," said Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger.  "These discussions have been productive and build on an already robust partnership."

The United States and Lebanon remain committed to a strong bilateral relationship built on common interests and mutual respect.  

The U.S. delegation was led by Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger.  The Lebanese delegation was led by Chief of Defense General Jospeh Aoun.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Condolences on the Passing of His Beatitude Cardinal Patriarch Emeritus Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir

Press Statement
Morgan Ortagus, Department Spokesperson
May 15, 2019

On behalf of Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and the American people, we were saddened by the news of the passing of His Beatitude Cardinal Patriarch Emeritus Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir. He was a courageous leader against tyranny and oppression and a champion for the idea of a sovereign and independent Lebanon. His leadership and bravery, during some of Lebanon's most trying times, shaped the course of Lebanon's recent history. We offer our condolences to all the Lebanese people for the loss of such a profoundly national as well as spiritual leader. The United States will continue to stand with Lebanon in support of these ideals embodied by Cardinal Sfeir.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Up to $10 million for information on Hizballah

By Mary Jane Maxwell - Apr 22, 2019

The United States is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information that will help disrupt the financial operations of the global terrorist organization Hizballah.

The U.S. Department of State offers rewards to bring terrorists to justice and prevent acts of international terrorism against Americans as part of "Rewards for Justice." Since the program began in 1984, the U.S. government has paid more than $150 million to more than 100 people who provided information that resulted in successful prosecutions or prevented acts of terrorism worldwide.

Specifically, the U.S. is seeking information that helps to identify Hizballah's:

  • Revenue sources, including major donors.
  • Banks or institutions used to make transactions.
  • Businesses or investments.
  • Criminal schemes to launder money.
  • Front companies that procure technology that could be used for weapons.

Hizballah is a Lebanon-based terrorist organization that receives weapons, training and money from Iran. Hizballah generates revenue from a combination of support from Iran, international businesses and investments, a network of donors and money laundering activities.

The three individuals are prime examples of key Hizballah financiers or facilitators the United States has designated as "Specially Designated Global Terrorists":

Adham Tabaja is a Hizballah member who conducts business throughout the Middle East and West Africa on behalf of Hizballah.

Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi is a key Hizballah financier who has provided millions of dollars to Hizballah generated from his business activities in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Ali Youssef Charara is a key Hizballah financier who has received millions of dollars from Hizballah to invest in commercial projects that financially support the terrorist group.

More information about these reward offers is located on the Rewards for Justice website at www.rewardsforjustice.net or through e-mail (LH@rewardsforjustice.net).


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Treasury Targets Sanctions Evasion Conduits for Major Hizballah Financiers

April 24, 2019

Washington – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) further targeted the global business operations of Hizballah by designating two individuals and three entities acting as conduits for sanctions evasion schemes.  Specifically, OFAC designated Belgium-based Wael Bazzi for acting for or on behalf of his father and Hizballah financier, Mohammad Bazzi.  OFAC designated Belgium-based Voltra Transcor Energy BVBA, Belgium-based OFFISCOOP NV, and United Kingdom-based BSQRD Limited for being owned or controlled by Wael Bazzi.  OFAC is also adding Energy Engineers Procurement and Construction as an alias for Global Trading Group NV (GTG), one of Mohammad Bazzi's companies, which was designated in May 2018.  Additionally, OFAC designated Lebanon-based Hassan Tabaja for acting for or on behalf of his brother and Hizballah member and financier, Adham Tabaja.  These individuals and entities were designated under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. 

"Treasury is relentlessly pursuing Hizballah's financial facilitators by dismantling two of Hizballah's most important financial networks.  As Hizballah continues to attempt to obscure its activities by using seemingly legitimate businesses, we will continue to take action against the front persons who hide the movement of money, including the relatives of designated terrorists," said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.  "By targeting Hassan Tabaja and Wael Bazzi and their European-based companies, this Administration is continuing to disrupt all avenues of financial support relied upon by Hizballah."

DESIGNATIONS BUILD ON REWARDS FOR JUSTICE PROGRAM

Today's designation of Hassan Tabaja and Wael Bazzi and his companies builds on the State Department's April 22, 2019 announcement of a Rewards for Justice (RFJ) reward offer for information leading to the disruption of Hizballah's financial mechanisms.  The program provides rewards for information that helps bring terrorists to justice, prevents international acts of terrorism against U.S. persons or property, leads to the identification or location of a key terrorist leader, or disrupts terrorist financing.  OFAC is designating individuals and entities connected to two of the financiers highlighted in that announcement, Mohammad Bazzi and Adham Tabaja.  For more information about the reward offer or to submit information on Hizballah's financial networks, visit the Rewards for Justice website at www.rewardsforjustice.net or contact the Rewards for Justice office via the confidential e-mail at LH@rewardsforjustice.net

Today's action also builds on the unprecedented number of designations taken in 2018 exposing Hizballah's terrorist support networks and pervasive use of seemingly legitimate businesses to launder money and foment regional conflict.  Hizballah and its proxies continue to use deceptive practices to circumvent sanctions, such as the use of family members and others to gain access to the formal financial system both in Lebanon and beyond.  As a standard practice, the regulated public should undertake know-your-customer due diligence to ensure awareness of the ultimate beneficiaries of transactions.  In cases with known links to designated terrorists, enhanced due diligence should be applied to ensure that the underlying activity is not in violation of U.S. sanctions.  The Treasury Department is determined to protect the integrity of the U.S., Lebanese, and international financial system to ensure that Hizballah cannot exploit them to further its political, financial, or operational agenda.  

As a result of today's action, all property and interests in property of these persons, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by the designated persons, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.  OFAC's regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

Additionally, the two individuals and three entities designated today are subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations, which implements the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015.  Pursuant to this authority, OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for Hizballah, or a person acting on behalf of or at the direction of, or owned or controlled by, Hizballah.

Hizballah was designated by the Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 1997 and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) pursuant to E.O. 13224 in October 2001.  It was listed in January 1995 in the Annex to E.O. 12947, which targets terrorists who threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process, and also designated in August 2012 pursuant to E.O. 13582, which targets the Government of Syria and its supporters.

BACKGROUND ON ADHAM TABAJA AND MOHAMMAD BAZZI

OFAC designated Adham Tabaja as an SDGT in June 2015 for providing support and services to Hizballah.  Adham Tabaja is a Hizballah member and majority owner of the designated Lebanon-based real estate development and construction firm Al-Inmaa Group for Tourism Works and its subsidiaries.  His company has been used by Hizballah as an investment mechanism.  He maintains direct ties to senior Hizballah organizational elements, including the terrorist group's operational component, the Islamic Jihad, the unit responsible for carrying out the group's overseas terrorist activities.  Specifically, Islamic Jihad member Husayn Ali Faour, whom OFAC designated concurrently with Adham Tabaja in June 2015, has worked with Adham Tabaja to secure and manage construction, oil, and other projects in Iraq.  Adham Tabaja's global network of seemingly legitimate businesses combined with his ties to Hizballah's terrorist unit make it critically important that his access to the international financial system is severed to ensure that he cannot fund this terrorist group.

Adham Tabaja maintains ties to other major Hizballah financiers, including Mohammad Bazzi, whom OFAC designated as an SDGT in May 2018 for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Hizballah.  Mohammad Bazzi, who operates or transacts in or through Belgium, Lebanon, Iraq, and several countries in West Africa, provided Hizballah financial assistance for many years and has provided millions of dollars to Hizballah generated from his business activities.  In addition, Mohammad Bazzi was a close associate of Yahya Jammeh who was identified on December 20, 2017, in the annex to E.O. 13818, which implemented the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.  Since his designation in May 2018, Mohammad Bazzi has continued to work with other Treasury-designated, senior Hizballah members.

WAEL BAZZI

Wael Bazzi was designated for acting for or on behalf of Mohammad Bazzi.

Since his designation in May 2018, Mohammad Bazzi has turned to his son, Wael Bazzi, to continue doing business in the Gambia.  Mohammad Bazzi has been able to conduct business through Wael Bazzi, upon whom he has continued to rely on to register new businesses and bid on Gambian government contracts.  Wael Bazzi formed a petroleum company to maintain his father's access to the oil industry.  Additionally, Mohammad Bazzi coordinated with Wael Bazzi and a Belgium-based GTG employee to change GTG's name after GTG's designation.  Wael Bazzi was the purported owner of this new company, likely to obscure Mohammad Bazzi's involvement and circumvent Mohammad Bazzi's designation. 

Wael Bazzi has helped Mohammad Bazzi and a Lebanon-based associate facilitate payments for a business contract.  Additionally, Wael Bazzi likely established an account for Voltra Transcor Energy, in connection with Mohammad Bazzi's attempted use of an intermediary company to move money to GTG and circumvent OFAC sanctions.  In 2017, Mohammad Bazzi planned to submit his son, Wael Bazzi, to fill the Lebanese Consular position in the Gambia because he could exert his influence over Wael.  As of at least early 2018, Wael Bazzi has been witting of Mohammad Bazzi's involvement in illicit activity.

On August 9, 2018, GTG changed its name to Energy Engineers Procurement and Construction.

DESIGNATED WAEL BAZZI-OWNED OR -CONTROLLED COMPANIES

Voltra Transcor Energy BVBA

Voltra Transcor Energy BVBA was designated for being owned or controlled by Wael Bazzi.

Wael Bazzi is the Chief Executive of Belgium-based Voltra Transcor Energy BVBA, which is involved in the petroleum products industry.  Wael Bazzi established an account for Voltra Transcor Energy, which Mohammad Bazzi attempted to use as an intermediary company to move money to GTG and circumvent OFAC sanctions. 

OFFISCOOP NV

OFFISCOOP NV was designated for being owned or controlled by Wael Bazzi.

Wael Bazzi is the Chief Executive, Managing Director, and Director of Belgium-based OFFISCOOP NV, which is involved in the management consulting services industry.

BSQRD Limited

BSQRD Limited was designated for being owned or controlled by Wael Bazzi.

Wael Bazzi is the Chief Executive, Director, and 50% owner of United Kingdom-based BSQRD Limited, which is involved in the computer-related services industry.

HASSAN TABAJA

Hassan Tabaja was designated for acting for or on behalf of Adham Tabaja.

Hassan Tabaja managed multiple properties in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) belonging to his brother, Adham Tabaja; however, in the summer of 2018 Emirati authorities took swift action against Hassan Tabaja and the assets he controlled as a result of his nefarious activities.  Hassan Tabaja is the legal representative for Adham Tabaja, has Power of Attorney (PoA) for him, and is named the executor of his property.  Accordingly, Hassan Tabaja was granted the power to make legal, real estate, and financial decisions; sign for business matters; buy and sell vehicles; take out loans; take out insurance policies; and cancel the PoA and any agreements in conjunction with and on behalf of Adham Tabaja.

Hassan Tabaja, likely on behalf of Adham Tabaja, has also pursued business transactions with Mohamad Noureddine, a Lebanese money launderer, whom OFAC designated as a SDGT pursuant to E.O. 13224 in January 2016, for providing financial services to or in support of, Hizballah.

View identifying information on the individuals and entities designated today.


Monday, April 22, 2019

U.S. offers $10 million for info to disrupt Hezbollah finances

The Associated Press 
Published Monday, April 22, 2019 2:18PM EDT 
WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration is offering rewards of up to $10 million each for information that disrupts the finances of Lebanon's militant Hezbollah organization.

The State and Treasury departments say the money will be paid to people who provide information such as the names of Hezbollah donors and financiers, bank records, customs receipts or evidence of real estate transactions.

The payments will be made by the State Department's "Rewards for Justice" program that usually offers cash for information leading to the whereabouts of wanted terrorists. This is the first time the program has been used to target a financial network.

Since it began in 1984, Rewards for Justice has paid more than $150 million to more than 100 people who have provided information about terrorists or prevented terrorism attacks.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Treasury Sanctions Lebanese Money Launderer Kassem Chams Who Moves Money on Behalf of Narcotics Trafficking Organizations and Hizballah

April 11, 2019

Washington – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) identified Lebanese national Kassem Chams and designated the Chams Money Laundering Organization as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers (SDNT) pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act).  OFAC also designated Chams Exchange, a money service business located in Chtaura, Lebanon.

OFAC also identified Kassem Chams and the Chams Money Laundering Organization as an affiliated network of Hizballah pursuant to the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act (HIFPAA). 

"Kassem Chams and his international money laundering network move tens of millions of dollars a month in illicit narcotics proceeds on behalf of drug kingpins and facilitate money movements for Hizballah.  We are targeting the financial infrastructure of these narcotics traffickers as part of this administration's unprecedented campaign to prevent Hizballah and its global terror affiliates from profiting off violence, corruption, and the drug trade," said Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. "Treasury continues to aggressively use its tools to cut off global support networks used by Hizballah to finance its nefarious activities."

Lebanese narcotics money launderer Kassem Chams is the owner of Chams Exchange, which launders drug proceeds throughout the world on behalf of narcotics trafficking organizations and facilitates money movements for Hizballah.  Chams moves money to and from Australia, Colombia, Italy, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Spain, Venezuela, France, Brazil, and the United States as part of his narcotics money laundering activities.  The Chams Money Laundering organization moves tens of millions of dollars a month for designatednarcotics traffickers, such as the Colombian criminal group La Oficina De Envigado and Lebanese drug money launderer Ayman Said Joumaa.  Joumaa was designated under the Kingpin Act in 2011 for laundering the proceeds of narcotics-related and other illicit activities—as much as $200 million per month—through various channels, including bulk cash smuggling operations and Lebanese money exchange houses.  Joumaa's network is also linked to financing Hizballah.  La Oficina de Envigado was designated under the Kingpin Act in 2014.  Operatives for La Oficina play a major role in organized criminal activity, including narcotics trafficking, both within and outside of Colombia.  Transnational criminal groups from outside of Colombia, including Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, have come to rely upon operatives of La Oficina for support in trafficking narcotics throughout the world.

These OFAC sanctions are part of a joint effort with DEA's Project Cassandra, which targets Hizballah's global criminal support networks that operate as a logistics, procurement and financing arm for Hizballah and which are involved in the global movement of large quantities of narcotics and proceeds from narcotics sales.  The DEA has determined that the Chams Money Laundering Organization launders a large portion of drug proceeds through Lebanon, which also benefits Hizballah.

The Chams Exchange operates under license and the supervision of the Central Bank of Lebanon (BdL) despite U.S authorities long suspecting it of being a significant third party money laundering operation.  Treasury is committed to working with BdL to eliminate access to the Lebanese financial system by narcotics traffickers, money launderers, and terrorist groups such as Hizballah. 

Today's OFAC designations were conducted in coordination with the DEA Special Operations Division's Counter Narco-Terrorism Operations Center, the DEA New Jersey Division, and the DEA Office of Global Enforcement, with assistance from the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

Today's actions are part of ongoing efforts under the Kingpin Act to apply financial measures against significant foreign narcotics traffickers and their financial associates worldwide.  Since June 2000, more than 2,100 entities and individuals have been named pursuant to the Kingpin Act for their role in international narcotics trafficking.  Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1,466,485 per violation to more severe criminal penalties.  Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $5 million.  Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million.  Other individuals could face up to 10 years in prison and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act.

The Treasury Department continues to prioritize disruption of the full range of Hizballah's illicit financial activity and has designated more than 40 Hizballah-affiliated individuals and entities since 2017.

As a result of today's actions, any assets of the designated individual or entities in the United States or in the possession or control of a U.S. person must be blocked and reported to OFAC.  OFAC's regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked persons.

For identifying information on the individual and entities designated today, click here.

To view the Kingpin Act chart on individuals and entities designated today, click here.

For more information about the Kingpin Act, click here.


Wednesday, April 03, 2019

ARMY RECEIVES 6 DRONES AS PART OF US AID PROGRAM

Wed 03 Apr 2019 
NNA - The Lebanese Army's Air Force has received a batch of 6 drones through the International Rafic Hariri Airport-Beirut, as part of the US Aid Program dedicated to the Lebanese army. 
The delivery ceremony at Beirut Airport was attended by a number of army officers and representatives of the US Embassy.

Launch of INL Funded “Corrections Professionalization Program”

By U.S. Embassy Beirut | 28 March, 2019 |
Today, the U.S. Department of State's Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut launched the U.S.-funded "Corrections Professionalization Program." This program will continue for three years, and includes developing and implementing a system of inmate classification in addition to continuous training for corrections officers.

Following are Ambassador Richard's remarks:

Thank you very much. Minister Raya el Hassan, Director General Osman, friends and colleagues.

It gives me great pleasure to join you today at ISF Headquarters to officially launch our new Corrections Professionalization Program with the ISF. I know that corrections is one of the priorities that the minister identified for us early on, and I am very happy to be here and help be supportive. This project will help you to lay the necessary foundation to improve security conditions and professionalism throughout the Lebanese Corrections System.

With this $2.5 million effort, the U.S. will work side-by-side with the ISF to develop and implement a system of inmate classification that will improve safety and security for both inmates and corrections officers. We will develop improved standardized operating procedures, incorporating – as you heard earlier – internationally recognized best practices. And we are going to continue to develop training to ensure these new practices are institutionalized in the ISF Prisons Directorate and the ISF Training Academy.

This project is yet another example of our strong partnership with Lebanon and our commitment to supporting its institutions. Over more than ten years of working together, we have provided training for thousands of your officers and delivered nearly $200 million in equipment and support to the ISF, one of our closest partners in the region. I would like to say that number is only a small part of the five and a half billion dollars we have invested in Lebanon in that same time period, but in the case of the ISF, the outcomes are tremendous.

The ISF is better, more professional, and more skilled today than it has ever been because of the dedication of its leadership and its officers. We are very proud of the strong and successful partnership we have with Lebanon and with the ISF, and of what we have achieved together. We look forward to continuing this partnership in the years ahead. Your efforts make Lebanon and the world a safer place. And we thank you.