The U.S. Department of the Treasury today targeted Hizballah's support network by designating the Iran-based Martyrs Foundation, including its U.S. branch, and the finance firm Al-Qard al-Hassan (AQAH) under Executive Order 13224. Two individuals were also designated today for the role they play in Hizballah's support network.
"We will continue to target those who form the financial backbone of Hizballah, Hamas, PIJ and other terrorist groups that are attempting to destabilize Lebanon and target innocent civilians," said Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. "We will not allow organizations that support terrorism to raise money in the United States or to evade our measures and continue to operate simply by changing their names."
The Martyrs Foundation
The Martyrs Foundation is an Iranian parastatal organization that channels financial support from Iran to several terrorist organizations in the Levant, including Hizballah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). To this end, the Martyrs Foundation established branches in Lebanon staffed by leaders and members of these same terrorist groups. Martyrs Foundation branches in Lebanon has also provided financial support to the families of killed or imprisoned Hizballah and PIJ members, including suicide bombers in the Palestinian territories.
In addition to fundraising responsibilities, senior Martyrs Foundation officials were directly involved in Hizballah operations against Israel during the July-August 2006 conflict. In addition, a Lebanon-based leader of the Martyrs Foundation has directed and financed terrorist cells in the Gaza Strip that worked with Hizballah and PIJ.
Today's designation includes the Goodwill Charitable Organization (GCO), a fundraising office established by the Martyrs Foundation in Dearborn, Michigan. GCO is a Hizballah front organization that reports directly to the leadership of the Martyrs Foundation in Lebanon. Hizballah recruited GCO leaders and has maintained close contact with GCO representatives in the United States.
GCO has provided financial support to Hizballah directly and through the Martyrs Foundation in Lebanon. Hizballah's leaders in Lebanon have instructed Hizballah members in the United States to send their contributions to GCO and to contact the GCO for the purpose of contributing to the Martyrs Foundation. Since its founding, GCO has sent a significant amount of money to the Martyrs Foundation in Lebanon.
Hizballah has used AQAH as a cover to manage its financial activity. AQAH is run by Husayn al-Shami, a senior Hizballah leader who has served as a member of Hizballah's Shura Council and as head of several Hizballah-controlled organizations.
Following the September 7, 2006 designation of al-Shami, along with Bayt al-Mal and Yousser Company for Finance and Investment, AQAH assumed a more prominent role in Hizballah's financial infrastructure. As of February 2007, bank accounts of Bayt al-Mal and Yousser Company were changed and re-registered in the name of senior employees of AQAH.
Further, after the majority of Bayt al-Mal's offices were destroyed during the summer 2006 conflict, Hizballah transferred a portion of its financial activity to AQAH, giving Hizballah access to the international banking system.
Treasury's action today also targets Qasem Aliq, a Hizballah official who was previously the director for the Martyrs Foundation branch in Lebanon. In addition to overseeing Martyrs Foundation's operation, Aliq worked closely with senior Hizballah officials. Aliq currently serves as the director of Jihad al-Bina, a Lebanon-based construction company formed and operated by Hizballah and previously designated by the Treasury.
Also designated today was Ahmad al-Shami, who has worked for the Martyrs Foundation in Lebanon and has been in frequent contact with GCO. Money raised by GCO was sent to al-Shami in Lebanon to be distributed to the Martyrs Foundation. Hizballah leadership placed Ahmad al-Shami in his position at the Martyrs Foundation in Lebanon.
Today's action is being taken pursuant to Executive Order 13224, which is aimed at financially isolating terrorists and their support networks. Designations under E.O. 13224 freeze any assets the designees may have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit transactions by U.S. persons with the designees.