CHICAGO: Lebanese political leader Gibran Bassil has been hit by US sanctions, with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo accusing him of being “notorious for corruption.”
Bassil, who has held various ministerial roles and heads the Free Patriotic Movement, has had his US assets frozen and is barred from entering the country.
Pompeo said Bassil was in violation of President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13818, which targets rights abuses and corruption under the 2015 Magnitsky Act.
The Magnitsky Act gives the president the power to block US entry and impose property sanctions against any foreign person, or entity, who is responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights or is engaged in government corruption.
“Bassil has served in multiple high-level posts in the Lebanese government, including as minister of foreign affairs and emigrants, minister of energy and water, and minister of telecommunications,” Pompeo said. “Throughout his government career, Bassil has become notorious for corruption and has been linked to the purchase of influence within Lebanese political circles. While minister of energy, Bassil was involved in approving several projects that would have steered Lebanese government funds to individuals close to him through a group of front companies.”
Pompeo said the action expanded on similar sanctions imposed under Executive Order 13224 on two other former Lebanese officials, including Yusuf Finyanus, who was Lebanon’s minister of transportation and public works, and Ali Hassan Khalil, who previously served as minister of public health and then later as minister of finance.
Finyanus and Khalil “put personal interests and those of Iran-backed Hezbollah ahead of the welfare of the Lebanese people,” Pompeo said. “Through his corrupt activities, Bassil has also undermined good governance and contributed to the prevailing system of corruption and political patronage that plagues Lebanon, which has aided and abetted Hezbollah’s destabilizing activities. Lebanese political leaders should be aware that the time has long passed for them to put aside their own narrow self-interests and instead work for the people of Lebanon.”
Pompeo said he was also strengthening punishments against Bassil by applying two other powerful instruments of US sanctions, including Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2020 (Div. G, P.L. 116-94), due to his involvement in significant corruption that blocked Bassil’s travel to the US.