By Samuel Rubenfeld
March 4, 2022
The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday sanctioned two Lebanese businessmen based in Guinea due to their support of Hizballah.
Ali Saade and Ibrahim Taher are both prominent Lebanese businessmen with direct connections to Hizballah, the Treasury said. Saade initiates money transfers from Guinea to Hizballah, while Taher has been identified as one of Guinea’s most prominent financial supporters of Hizballah, according to the Treasury.
The sanctions on Saade and Taher come as the U.S. keeps a focus on counter-terrorism efforts even as it responds to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The designations are aimed at disrupting Hizballah’s West African business network, which relies on bribery and influence to circumvent the rule of law, the Treasury said. Hizballah was designated in 1997 by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
Saade has a close relationship with Kassem Tajideen, who was sanctioned in 2009 over his financial contributions to Hizballah, the Treasury said. Saade was Tajideen’s primary contact in Guinea, making significant efforts to provide him with unrestricted access to corrupt high-level members of the former Guinean government, according to the Treasury. Saade also advised Tajideen on methods for making financial transfers to evade regulatory detection.
Tajideen was sentenced in August 2019 to five years in prison and ordered to forfeit USD 50 million after he had pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments involving the evasion of sanctions. He was deported back to Lebanon in July 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) announced in a press release.
Taher and an associate sent U.S. dollars collected at one of their commercial facilities to Conakry Airport and bribed Guinean customs officials to allow their currency to pass in luggage, according to the Treasury. He used his status as an honorary consul of Lebanon to Cote d’Ivoire to travel in and out of Guinea with minimal scrutiny, the Treasury said.
“Hizballah has developed a global network of financiers, supporters, donors and facilitators, enabling the group to constantly threaten the security, stability and prosperity of Lebanon and the broader region,” said Ned Price, a State Department spokesman, in a statement.