The US has announced sanctions on two high-profile Lebanese businessmen and a sitting member of Parliament for undermining the rule of law.
Washington accused Jihad Al Arab, Dany Khoury and Jamil Sayyed of profiting from corruption and cronyism while “enriching themselves at the expense of the Lebanese people and state institutions".
“The Lebanese people deserve an end to the endemic corruption perpetuated by businessmen and politicians who have driven their country into an unprecedented crisis,” said Andrea Gacki, director of the US Office of Foreign Assets Control.
“Now is the time to implement necessary economic reforms and put an end to the corrupt practices eroding Lebanon’s foundations. [The US Treasury Department] will not hesitate to use its tools to address impunity in Lebanon,” she added.
A statement said that the sanctions aimed “to hold to account those in Lebanon’s business and political elite who have benefited from improper tendering practices for inflated contracts and a pervasive culture of cronyism that undermines Lebanon’s institutions, rule of law, and economic stability".
Jamil Sayyed, former head of Lebanon’s General Security, is a sitting MP who Washington has accused of skirting Lebanon’s banking regulations to transfer more than $120 million overseas "in order to enrich himself."
Dany Khoury is a close associate of Gebran Bassil, former foreign minister of Lebanon, who himself was sanctioned by Washington last year.
Mr Khoury currently has a $142m contract to operate a landfill in the Bourj Hammoud district of Beirut. His company has been accused of dumping toxic waste into the Mediterranean Sea and polluting Lebanon’s beaches.
Jihad Al Arab is a close associate of former prime minister Saad Hariri, who in 2016 won a $288m contract to build a new landfill site amid a rubbish crisis in the country.
“Because of close political connections, Al Arab has been awarded multiple public contracts in exchange for kickback payments to government officials,” the statement read.
In June, the billionaire announced he was closing all of his businesses in Lebanon after his family was confronted by protesters outside a restaurant in central Beirut.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said “Jihad Al Arab and Dany Khoury have used their close personal connections to political elites to reap the benefits of government contracts while failing to meaningfully fulfil those contracts’ terms.”
He added “The United States is levying sanctions on these individuals in solidarity with the Lebanese people, who have long demanded accountability, transparency, and an end to endemic corruption.”