US sanctions alleged Hezbollah financial adviser in Lebanon

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BEIRUT — The United States on Tuesday slapped sanctions on a high-profile Lebanese economist alleged to be assisting the militant group Hezbollah with its financial operations.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against economist and money exchanger Hassan Moukalled; CTEX Exchange, a money service business owned by him; and Moukalled’s sons, Rayyan Moukalled and Rani Moukalled, who the Treasury said in a statement “facilitate Hassan Moukalled and his company’s financial activities in support of Hizballah.”

It said that Moukalled, who frequently appears as an economic analyst on local media, had “worked in close coordination with senior Hizballah financial officials to help Hizballah establish a presence in Lebanon’s financial system.” It said he serves as a financial adviser to the militant group, “carrying out business deals on behalf of the group throughout the region.”

The Treasury also alleged that Moukalled’s exchange shop serves as a “financial front company” for Hezbollah.

The sanctions also targeted two other companies owned or controlled by Moukalled, the Lebanese Company for Information and Studies (LCIS) and Lebanese Company for Publishing, Media, and Research and Studies (LCPMR).

Reached by phone, Moukalled denied the allegations and said his businesses are “100% above-board.”

The move comes after the U.S. in December slapped terrorism sanctions on two accountants and two companies in Lebanon for providing Hezbollah with financial services.

The penalties targeted Adel Mohamad Mansour, executive director of Hezbollah’s al-Qard Al-Hassan group, which has been previously sanctioned by the U.S., as well as another company he is involved with, al-Khobara for Accounting, Auditing, and Studies.

The sanctions also apply to the firm Auditors for Accounting and Auditing and one of its representatives, Naser Hasan Neser, as well as Hassan Khalil, who the Treasury Department said has been active in helping Hezbollah acquire arms.

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