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US sanctions Lebanese businessmen for alleged support of Hezbollah

DPA
Washington
The United States on Friday sanctioned a prominent Lebanese art collector and an associate for allegedly funnelling tens of millions of dollars to the pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement through money laundering schemes.
The US Treasury Department identified the two men as Nazem Ahmad, based in Lebanon, and Saleh Assi, an associate of Ahmad based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The department described Ahmad as one of Hezbollah’s top donors and said he owns an art collection worth tens of millions of dollars with works by Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. It accused Assi of laundering money through Ahmad’s diamond businesses. The sanctions also affect 17 affiliated entities.
“Hezbollah continues to use seemingly legitimate businesses as front companies to raise and launder funds in countries like the DRC where it can use bribery and political connections to secure unfair market access and evade taxes,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Ahmad and Assi’s activity represented years in which they concealed their revenue from the Lebanese government through money laundering, trafficking in conflict diamonds and tax evasion.
“The United States strongly supports the Lebanese people’s demands for reform and an end to corruption,” he said.
The sanctions come as the Lebanese people demand reform and an end to corruption. The country has been gripped by street protests since mid-October.