US blocks Hizbullah funds in S. America

Action covers 9 people, 2 businesses in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

Hizbullah march 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Hizbullah march 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Bush administration took action Wednesday aimed at choking off a major fundraising channel for Hizbullah operating in the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The Treasury Department's action covers nine people and two entities, a shopping center in Paraguay and an electronics company, Casa Hamze, located in the shopping center. As a result, Americans are forbidden from doing business with them, and any bank accounts or other financial assets belonging to the designated people and entities found in the United States must be frozen. The department alleges that those designated have provided financial and logistical support to Hizbullah, which the United States considers a terrorist organization. The Lebanon-based Hizbullah is suspected of involvement in terrorist attacks worldwide. The US also blames Hizbullah for triggering bloodshed in the Middle East involving Lebanon, Israel and the terrorist group during the summer and more recently stirring political unrest in Lebanon. Specifically, the department alleges that the designated people gave financial and other assistance to Assad Ahmad Barakat, whom the government several years ago added to its asset-blocking list for his support of Hizbullah. "Assad Ahmad Barakat's network in the tri-border area is a major financial artery to Hizbullah in Lebanon," said Adam Szubin, director of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. The tri-border region is considered a haven for arms traffickers, smugglers and counterfeiters and is home is thousands of Lebanese Muslims. It was once described by the US State Department as a "focal point for Islamic extremism in Latin America." The department alleged that Muhammad Yusif Abdallah is a senior Hizbullah leader in the tri-border area and an important financial backer of the terror group. The department says Abdallah is an owner and manager of the Galeria Page shopping center located in Paraguay, which the department also designated on Wednesday. The department alleged that Abdallah pays a percentage of his income to Hizbullah based on the profits he receives from the shopping center. The department also alleges that Abdallah has been involved in importing contraband electronics, falsifying passports, credit card fraud and trafficking counterfeit US dollars. Hamzi Ahmad Barakat also was designated, with the government alleging that he is a Hizbullah member in the tri-border area and has served as a source of funding for the terror group through his electronics store, Casa Hamze. He also is suspected of trafficking narcotics; counterfeit US dollars, arms and explosives, the government said. Hatim Ahmad Barakat, who has traveled to Chile to collect money for Hizbullah and is the brother of Assad Ahmad Barakat also was named. Others named Wednesday are: Muhammad Fayez Barakat, whom the government alleges is responsible for the Barakat network's finances; Muhammad Tarabain Chamas and Saleh Mahmoud Fayad, whom the government alleges have been involved in counterintelligence; Sobhi Mahmoud Fayad, who the government says served as a liaison between the Iranian embassy and the Hizbullah community in the tri-border area; Ali Muhammad Kazan, who helped raise more than $500,000 (€377,000) for Hizbullah from Lebanese businessmen in the tri-border region, the government alleges; and Farouk Omairi, whom the government says is a member of the Hizbullah community in the tri-border area.