U.S. Sanctions Companies, Officials Linked to Iran’s Martyrs Foundation

Photo: Atlas Holding Website

 

This report has been updated with additional research by Kharon.

The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday imposed sanctions on three Lebanon-based officials and 12 companies tied to the Martyrs Foundation

The foundation, an Iranian parastatal organization, was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2007 and is used as a channel to funnel financial support from Tehran to terrorist organizations, including Hizballah, the Treasury has said. The Lebanon office of the Martyrs Foundation is an integral element of Hizballah’s global terror support network, according to the Treasury. 

The designations announced Wednesday focus on Atlas Holding, a conglomerate co-founded by the Martyrs Foundation that owns or controls at least 10 companies across numerous sectors, including fuel, pharmaceuticals, tourism and clothing, the Treasury said. 

Hizballah profits from the sale of goods vital to the Lebanese peoples’ health and economy, such as pharmaceuticals and gasoline,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

In addition to the Atlas Holding companies, the Treasury on Wednesday also sanctioned the organization’s leadership, including Chief Executive Officer and Chair Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi and co-founder Sheikh Yusuf Aasi, as well as Martyrs Foundation Director General Jawad Nur-al-Din. Bazzi owns 80 percent of Atlas Holding, while corporate board members Bilal Mohammad Taha and Osama Mohammad Olayq, neither of whom were sanctioned, each hold 10 percent stakes, according to Lebanese corporate records. 

Hizballah, a Lebanese organization heavily backed by Iran, was designated in 1997 by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) and the Trump administration has increased pressure on the group. Atlas Holding is one of several entities identified as subordinate to the Hizballah Executive Council, which takes advantage of the appearance of legitimacy to conceal money transfers for Hizballah military use through these firms, according to the Treasury.

Atlas Holding had signed USD 17.3 million worth of design contracts with Arch Consulting Company, which was part of Hizballah’s Jihad al-Bina before it became an independent company, Kharon reported in November 2018. Arch Consulting’s contracts span the breadth of Hizballah activity in Lebanon and abroad, Kharon reported.

Atlas Holding and several of its subsidiaries banked freely at Jammal Trust Bank, which was sanctioned in August as Hizballah’s “bank of choice,” the Treasury said. Jammal Trust Bank facilitated hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions through the Lebanese financial system on behalf of Atlas Holdings and its subsidiaries, and aided Hizballah officials in evading scrutiny on the accounts from Lebanese banking authorities, according to the Treasury. (Jammal Trust Bank in September announced it would liquidate following the U.S. sanctions.)

Amana Fuel Co., one of the sanctioned companies majority-owned by Atlas Holding, operates a chain of gas stations across areas of Beirut, Bekaa and southern Lebanon, according to its website. Its stations offer car washes and lubricant service, and the company also owns a gas warehouse in Beirut, the website said. Bazzi is listed on the corporate record as the company’s founder, director and authorized signatory, according to the Treasury. 

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