Amid Russian Invasion, U.S. Treasury Keeps Focus on Terrorism, Afghanistan

The U.S. announced new sanctions on Houthi financiers and ISIS facilitators, and issued a license that will ease the path of transactions to Afghanistan

A house destroyed amid the war in Yemen. (Source: Adobe Stock)

By Samuel Rubenfeld

March 1, 2022


Even as the U.S. and its Western allies mount a global sanctions effort in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has in the past week announced new designations against terrorist groups and provided new pathways for funds to reach Afghanistan.

The Treasury on Feb. 23 sanctioned an international network funding the Houthi rebels and on Tuesday designated facilitators of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) based in South Africa. And on Feb. 25, the Treasury issued a license expanding authorizations for commercial and financial transactions in Afghanistan, including with governing institutions led by the Taliban.

Led by Sa’id al-Jamal, an Iran-based financier for the Houthis and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), the network has transferred tens of millions of dollars to Yemen via a complex network of intermediaries, the Treasury said. Al-Jamal was sanctioned in June 2021 for leading a network smuggling Iranian fuel, petroleum products and other items. 

The newly sanctioned network led by al-Jamal generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue with the aid of a diverse array of international commodities traders, according to the Treasury. The designations came in coordination and collaboration with Gulf allies, the Treasury said.

Al-Jamal is aided by, among others, the Turkey-based man Abdi Nasir Ali Mahamud and his network, as well as United Arab Emirates- and Sweden-based Abdo Abdullah Dael Ahmed and Greek businessman Konstantinos Stavridis, according to the Treasury. 

Dael helped al-Jamal and Mahamud launder and transfer millions of dollars in support of their network, the Treasury said. He also holds minority stakes in three Sweden-based food trading companies and their parent, a holding company known Marieland Holding Gavle AB, according to corporate records seen by Kharon. Stavridis used his company Fani Oil Trading FZE to buy gasoline from al-Jamal, the proceeds from which were ultimately sent to the Houthis, the Treasury said, noting that Mahamud’s company had helped facilitate the deal.

The proceeds from al-Jamal’s operations are funneled through exchange houses based in Turkey and Yemen, the Treasury said. Aurum Ship Management FZC has generated millions of dollars in profit while managing ships connected to al-Jamal, according to the Treasury. Aurum has had ties to multiple vessels beset by scandal, according to a review by Kharon.

Separately, on March 1, the Treasury sanctioned four ISIS and ISIS-Mozambique (ISIS-M) facilitators based in South Africa, saying members and associates based there are playing an increasingly central role in facilitating the transfer of funds to branches across the continent. 

ISIS has attempted to expand its influence in Africa through large-scale operations in areas where government control is limited, the Treasury said. The expansion was laid out in a counter-terrorism monitoring report by the United Nations, Kharon reported last month.

And the Treasury authorized all transactions involving Afghanistan and its governing institutions that would otherwise be prohibited by U.S. sanctions, except for transfers to the Taliban, Haqqani Network and associated entities and any sanctioned individual in a leadership role.

“Going forward, we will continue to apply rigorous sanctions to the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and their collaborators until they halt their repressive actions while providing necessary exemptions to facilitate the flow of legitimate aid to Afghanistan’s people,” the Treasury said. “We expect [non-government organizations] and private sector actors will continue to implement appropriate due diligence measures and [anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing] controls to ensure funds are not diverted for illicit purposes.” 

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