The United States of America has continued to tighten the financial noose around Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese political party, since the beginning of this year. On February 24, 2023, the Romanian authorities arrested Muhammad Ibrahim Bazzi, the party’s most prominent financier. Bazzi was on the US terrorism list since 2018, and the US State Department announced a financial reward of ten million dollars for anyone who provides information leading to his arrest.

Bazzi, who is fifty-eight years old and holds dual Lebanese and Belgian nationalities, was arrested at Bucharest Airport. The arrest represents a significant blow to Hezbollah’s activities at home and abroad, especially since the US Treasury Department continues to impose sanctions on the party’s leaders, particularly its financial arms. The latest sanctions were imposed in late January on Lebanese financial expert, Hassan Muqalled, his two sons Ryan and Rani, and their affiliated exchange company, CITEX.

The Romanian authorities will deport Bazzi to the United States in the coming days, according to Brion Pace, the US Attorney General in Brooklyn. Pace said, “Mohamed Bazzi believed that he could secretly transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars from the United States to Lebanon without her noticing. He has law enforcement agencies…but he was wrong.”

Bazzi is a businessman who owns shares in companies, including the Belgian energy services group Global Trading Group, and the petroleum products company Euro African Group based in Gambia. Three of his companies based in the Middle East are listed on the US sanctions lists. Bazzi is considered one of Hezbollah’s main financiers, who supports the party’s commercial activities in Lebanon, Iraq, Belgium, and West Africa. The US Treasury designated him as a “global terrorist” under Resolution No. 13224 on May 17, 2018.

According to Osama Al-Hitimi, a researcher specializing in Iranian affairs, the arrest of Bazzi is a significant blow to Hezbollah, as it loses one of its most cunning financiers who managed to evade American supervision for over four years. However, Al-Hitimi also points out that it is uncertain whether this arrest will have a fateful impact on the party’s activities. Hezbollah has been battling with many forces for decades, realizing that it and its financiers will be subjected to intense prosecutions. The party has therefore diversified its funding sources, devised complex fraudulent methods, and found overt and secret economic entities to avoid slipping into a dangerous impasse.

Hezbollah’s reliance on Lebanese businessmen for financial financing has made it the focus of the American administration’s attention. The US policy has been focused on curbing the party’s activities and imposing sanctions on its most prominent businessmen financiers, such as Muhammad Ibrahim Bazzi, Abdullah Safi Al-Din, Adham Tabaja, and Ali Youssef Sharara. Nonetheless, Hezbollah will not lack many cards, and with Iran, its most important arm in the region and the world, will be activating some of them as revenge for America’s arrest of Bazzi.

Source » theportal-center