Lebanon News

U.K. extends its sanctions regime against Hezbollah

Hezbollah supporters listen to the speech of Nasrallah in Beirut's southern suburbs, Jan. 5, 2020. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Britain’s Finance Ministry Friday extended its sanctions against Hezbollah, freezing the assets of all individuals and groups in the United Kingdom associated with any part of the organization. The change requires any individual or institution in Britain with accounts or financial services connected to Hezbollah to suspend them or face prosecution.

The group had “publicly denied a distinction between its military and political wings,” the Treasury said in a notice posted on its website. “The group in its entirety is assessed to be concerned in terrorism and was proscribed as a terrorist organization in the U.K. in March 2019,” it added.

“This listing includes the Military Wing, the Jihad Council and all units reporting to it, including the External Security Organization.”

A Finance Ministry spokesman said the change followed its annual review of the asset-freezing register, and brought it into line with the 2019 decision by the interior minister to blacklist all of Hezbollah.

“The U.K. remains committed to the stability of Lebanon and the region, and we continue to work closely with our Lebanese partners,” the spokesman added.

Diplomatic sources familiar with the move told The Daily Star that the scheduled annual review for the existing asset freeze against Hezbollah’s military wing was Thursday and that the decision was taken to extend the asset freeze to match proscription. The sources were quick to reject any notion that this announcement was related to the current government formation process in Lebanon. Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab has not been able to form a government since being nominated to do so at the end of the 2019.

British Ambassador to Lebanon Chris Rampling met with Minister of State for Presidency Affairs Salim Jreissati Friday to inform him of Hezbollah’s inclusion on Britain’s updated list of asset-freeze targets.

Last year, Britain’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We are no longer able to distinguish between [Hezbollah’s] already banned military wing and the political party. Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety.”

Under the U.K.’s Terrorism Act, being a member of, or inviting support for, proscribed terrorist groups is a criminal offense that carries a sentence of up to 10 years’ imprisonment. The U.K. proscribes 75 international terrorist organizations.

Over the past year the U.S. has also stepped up its financial sanctions on Hezbollah as part of its campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran. Washington considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization and a proxy of Tehran, and its financial networks have come under intense U.S. scrutiny as a result.

The U.S. Treasury department in December sanctioned Nazem Ahmad, Saleh Assi and Tony Saab for allegedly financing Hezbollah and laundering its money. In 2019, two Hezbollah MPs - Amin Sharri and Mohammad Raad - were also sanctioned by the U.S. as part of a string of measures targeting the group’s officials.

Relations between Washington and Tehran have deteriorated since U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2017. - With AFP

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 18, 2020, on page 2.

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