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US Official: We Want to Prevent Hezbollah from Using Lebanese Banks

US Official: We Want to Prevent Hezbollah from Using Lebanese Banks

Friday, 1 February, 2019 - 06:30
Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing in the US Department of the Treasury Marshall Billingslea (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat
Preventing Hezbollah from accessing the Lebanese banking sector is a US priority, a senior official told a group of journalists in a roundtable interview at the American Embassy in Beirut on Thursday.
 
Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing in the US Department of the Treasury Marshall Billingslea said that his country’s efforts began to materialize in preventing the party from using Lebanese banks to a large extent, and in reducing the amount of funds that it receives from Iran for financing “terrorist activities.”
 
The official lashed out at Hezbollah, calling it “the Iranian cancer that is destroying the Lebanese democracy.”

He ruled out, on the other hand, reports that the United States was targeting the Lebanese banking sector and intending to cut its support to the army.

“Our support for the Lebanese army and the financial sector in Lebanon is constant.

“General [Joseph] Votel was here to support military relations and I am here to pursue the means to strengthen relations and the ability of the Lebanese government and banks to combat money laundering,” he affirmed.
 
The US would have “significant problems” with Hezbollah using ministerial portfolios to funnel funds in support of its “terrorist agenda,” Billingslea warned, noting that his government would keep a close eye on “what role Hezbollah will play” in the Cabinet.
 
Emphasizing the US government’s commitment to Lebanon’s financial stability and its overall satisfaction with the banking sector’s compliance with US sanctions and regulations, he urged Lebanese officials to ensure that Hezbollah “stays away from the banking sector.”
 
“We believe that it is necessary to enact legislation to prevent the existence of anonymous accounts in banks and that the Government will be able to counter these activities. I have discussed with Lebanese officials and specialists the need to create such legislation,” he noted.
 
Billingslea underlined that the government must have the ability to block and freeze accounts that are associated with Hezbollah’s illicit activities. 
 
Commenting on foreign reports about the economic collapse in Lebanon, he stressed that the Lebanese economy was not collapsing.
 
“There are pressing financial and economic issues that need to be addressed,” he said, maintaining the need for the new government to implement “reforms to tackle corruption.” 

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