US Offers $10 Million for Info on Hizbullah Financial Network
Lebanese Islamist group says reward won’t affect finances, accuses US of recruiting ‘collaborators’
[Ramallah] The US State Department is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the disruption of financial mechanisms used by the Lebanon-based armed group Hizbullah.
Reward money will be paid to individuals who provide the names of donors or financiers for Hezbollah, data on bank accounts, customs data or evidence of real estate transactions. All information will be kept classified.
During an April 22 press conference, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Michael T. Evanoff noted that Hizbullah receives weapons, training and funding from Iran. The State Department designated Iran a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984 and classified Hizbullah as a terrorist group in October 1997.
Hizbullah takes in about $1 billion a year from a combination of direct financial support from Iran, international businesses and investments, donor networks, and money laundering activities, the State Department said. The Lebanese group has denied charges that it is also involved in the international drug trade.
Last year, Forbes Israel listed Hizbullah as the wealthiest terrorist group in the world.
Speaking to The Media Line, Hizbullah spokesperson Mohammed Afif accused the US of trying to “recruit Lebanese people as collaborators,” adding that it had resorted to financial warfare following failures on battlefields in Syria and Iraq.
“We see the matter as an alternative war to a real one against us,” Afif said. “This is how the US fights resistance movements when it can’t [fight us] in real life.”
He added that Hizbullah’s financial situation was stable and would not be affected.
Nizar Abd al-Qader, a strategic and military analyst and retired Lebanese general, told The Media Line that Washington was offering the reward in parallel with the sanctions it had imposed on Tehran to further punish Iran’s clients, such as Hizbullah.
“It’s not a new thing,” Abd al-Qader said, “however it’s a priority now, following the American targeting of Iran. The US administration knows Hizbullah’s sources of money and is trying its best to cut them off by imposing sanctions on Iran, and by [targeting] its business projects as well as its donors.”
Following Washington’s exit from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, the US reinstated full sanctions against Iran, including on its oil exports and banking sectors. It now says that on May 2, it will end a six-month waiver on oil exports to countries such as Japan, China and India, which rely on Iran for a great deal of their energy needs.
Tehran has called the move “economic terrorism.”