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New US Sanctions Target Iran's Money Transfers to Hezbollah


FILE - Valiollah Seif, Governor of Central Bank of Iran.
FILE - Valiollah Seif, Governor of Central Bank of Iran.

The United States on Tuesday blacklisted Iran’s central bank governor Valiollah Seif and its international department assistant director Ali Tarzali for allegedly sending millions of dollars to Lebanon-based Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

A statement from the U.S. Treasury Department said Seif and Tarzali helped Iran’s Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force (IRGC-QF) exploit the international financial system to fund its activities abroad.

“Iran’s Central Bank Governor covertly funneled millions of dollars on behalf of the IRGC-QF through Iraq-based al-Bilad Islamic Bank to enrich and support the violent and radical agenda of Hezbollah,” said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in the statement.

“The United States will not permit Iran’s increasingly brazen abuse of the international financial system. The global community must remain vigilant against Iran’s deceptive efforts to provide financial support to its terrorist proxies,” Mnuchin said.

The U.S. Treasury Department also sanctioned the Iraqi al-Bilad Islamic Bank and its owner Aras Habib, as well as Hezbollah official Muhammad Qasir, for helping IRGC-QF transfer funds.

It said Habib exploited the bank to jeopardize the integrity of the Iraqi financial system by moving funds from Tehran to Iranian-backed Iraqi groups and Hezbollah, while Qasir served as a "critical conduit" to move financial disbursements from the Revolutionary Guards.

All four individuals will be added to the U.S. list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, which targets terrorists and those supporting acts of terrorism.

The new sanctions come as the U.S., in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates, last Thursday designated six individuals and three companies it said were funneling millions of dollars to IRGC-QF, just days after President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“These actions build upon President Trump’s May 8 decision to cease the United States’ participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and begin reimposing U.S. sanctions that had been lifted under the JCPOA, including against the Central Bank of Iran,” Treasury’s Tuesday statement said.

The department said the designations do not extend to the Iran’s central bank itself, but it will re-impose sanctions on certain transactions within the bank, including the purchase or acquisition of U.S. dollars banknotes by the Iranian government.

Additional sanctions will be re-imposed on November against people knowingly engaging in certain significant transactions with the bank, the department vowed.