US sanctions Lebanese money exchanger over alleged Hezbollah ties

CTEX and founder Hassan Moukalled reportedly closed Hezbollah deals across the region

Supporters of Hezbollah attend a televised speech by the group's leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut. AFP
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The US on Tuesday sanctioned a Lebanese money exchange firm for alleged ties to Hezbollah.

CTEX and its founder Hassan Moukalled were sanctioned by the Treasury Department, which said the firm allows Hezbollah to carry out financial exchanges.

The Treasury also sanctioned Mr Moukalled’s sons.

​​“Today, the Treasury Department is taking action against a corrupt money exchanger, whose financial engineering actively supports and enables Hezbollah and its interests at the expense of the Lebanese people and economy,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson.

Mr Moukalled serves as a financial advisor to Hezbollah and has worked in close co-ordination with senior Hezbollah officials, the treasury said.

It accused him of carrying out business deals across the Middle East on behalf of the group.

"Hassan Moukalled works in close co-ordination with sanctioned senior Hezballah financial official Muhammad Qasir and represents Hezballah in negotiations with potential investors, partners, and even foreign government officials," it said.

The Lebanon-based economist, who has a wide social media following and often appears on Lebanese TV, has also facilitated Hezbollah deals with Russia and assisted in procuring weapons for the group, the department added.

Rayyan and Rani Moukalled are accused of enabling their father's work and having links to the militant group.

CTEX is owned by Lebanon's Central Bank, according to the Treasury.

Mr Moukalled reportedly set up the exchange in 2021 as a front company, aided by Mr Qasir and his deputy Muhammad Qasim Al Bazzal.

It collected millions for Lebanon's Central Bank and Hezbollah, the treasury said, also recruiting money exchangers loyal to the Shiite movement.

Earlier this month, Washington appealed for information on two Lebanese men accused of being financiers for Hezbollah.

The Rewards for Justice programme is offering up to $10 million for information on businessmen Ali Saade and Ibrahim Taher, who “use their businesses to help finance the Hezbollah terrorist organisation”.

In December, the US sanctioned Lebanese-based individuals and companies it said provide financial services and weapons abilities to the group.

Hezbollah, founded by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in 1982, has been designated as a terrorist group by the US and other western nations.

It grew stronger after joining the Syrian war in 2012, with the support of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, and holds significant sway in many parts of Lebanon.

Updated: January 25, 2023, 9:05 AM
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