US Treasury sanctions 7 Lebanese tied to Hezbollah finances

US Treasury sanctions 7 Lebanese tied to Hezbollah finances
A Lebanese army convoy patrols a street in Ain Qana after an explosion rocked a Hezbollah site in the southern village on Sept. 22, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 12 May 2021

US Treasury sanctions 7 Lebanese tied to Hezbollah finances

US Treasury sanctions 7 Lebanese tied to Hezbollah finances
  • The development comes as Lebanon is experiencing the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history
  • The Treasury said six of the seven sanctioned were the group’s “shadow bankers”

BEIRUT: The US Treasury Department on Tuesday imposed new sanctions on seven Lebanese linked to the militant Iran-backed Hezbollah group and its financial arm.
The measures are the latest against Hezbollah, which Washington considers a terrorist group and has targeted with penalties for years.
The development comes as Lebanon is experiencing the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history, including a loss of trust in the country’s once booming banking sector.
The Treasury said six of the seven sanctioned were the group’s “shadow bankers,” who used the cover of personal accounts at certain Lebanese banks to evade sanctions against Hezbollah’s financial arm. They transferred approximately $500 million over the past decade, it said.
The seventh sanctioned person, Ibrahim Daher, is one of Hezbollah’s chief financial executives who oversees the group’s overall budget, including the funding for its operations.
The Treasury said Al-Qard Al-Hasan — Hezbollah’s financial arm which the US has sanctioned since 2007 — has taken a more prominent role over the years. Founded since 1982 and registered as a charity in Lebanon, the association is used by Hezbollah to gain access to the international financial system, the Treasury said.
While the alleged charity “purports to serve the Lebanese people, in practice it illicitly moves funds through shell accounts and facilitators,” the Treasury said. “By hoarding hard currency that is desperately needed by the Lebanese economy, (it) allows (Hezbollah) to build its own support base and compromise the stability of the Lebanese state.”
Al-Qard Al-Hasan, considered Lebanon’s largest non-banking financial institution, stepped in amid the latest economic crisis to provide a vital lifeline for many. It has seen a significant increase in clients.
Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, recently said the association has provided $3.7 billion in loans to some 1.8 million people since its founding.
Hezbollah “continues to abuse the Lebanese financial sector and drain Lebanon’s financial resources at an already dire time,” said Andrea Gacki, director of the Treasury’s office of foreign assets control.
“Such actions demonstrate (Hezbollah’s) disregard for financial stability, transparency, or accountability in Lebanon,” she added.
The Treasury said Daher leads Hezbollah’s Central Finance Unit, overseeing its income, budget and coordinating payments of its members while the other six participated in shadow banking activities on behalf of Hezbollah, maintaining joint bank accounts in Lebanese banks that allowed for transfer of money within the formal financial system.


Tunisian court releases media mogul Nabil Karoui

Tunisian court releases media mogul Nabil Karoui
Updated 26 min 7 sec ago

Tunisian court releases media mogul Nabil Karoui

Tunisian court releases media mogul Nabil Karoui
  • Karoui, the owner of Nessma television channel and head of the Heart of Tunisia political party, was detained in December for a second time for alleged money laundering and tax fraud
  • In 2019, Karoui beat most candidates to reach a run-off for the presidency despite spending most of the campaign behind bars — he ultimately lost in a landslide to President Kais Saied

TUNIS: A Tunisian court on Tuesday released media mogul and former presidential candidate Nabil Karoui after he spent more than six months in custody on money laundering and tax evasion charges, his lawyer and party said.
Karoui, the owner of Nessma television channel and head of the Heart of Tunisia political party, the second largest in parliament, was detained in December for a second time for alleged money laundering and tax fraud.
Video footage broadcast by local radio Mosaique FM showed Karoui leaving Mornaguia prison, where he found his family and party members waiting outside.
In 2019, Karoui beat most candidates to reach a run-off for the presidency despite spending most of the campaign behind bars. He ultimately lost in a landslide to President Kais Saied.
His Heart of Tunisia party, which came second only to the moderate Islamist Ennahda in a parliamentary election the same year, has joined with it in giving narrow majority support to Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi’s government, which has been locked in a power struggle with the president.


Algeria's FLN wins most seats in parliament, election authority says

Algeria's FLN wins most seats in parliament, election authority says
Updated 7 min 21 sec ago

Algeria's FLN wins most seats in parliament, election authority says

Algeria's FLN wins most seats in parliament, election authority says

ALGIERS: Algeria's FLN, long the country's biggest political party, won the most seats in Saturday's parliamentary election, the head of the electoral authority said on Tuesday.
Fewer than a third of registered voters took part in the election, which the long dominant establishment had seen as part of its strategy to move beyond two years of mass protests and political turmoil.
The protests that erupted in 2019 demanded the ousting of the ruling elite, an end to corruption and the army's withdrawal from politics. While authorities praised the demonstrations as a moment of national renewal, they also cracked down with arrests.
"The dynamic of peaceful change that was launched (with the protests) is being strengthened," electoral authority head Mohamed Chorfi said, referring to the election.
The FLN's 105 seats were far short of the 204 needed to secure a majority in the 407-seat parliament, with the Islamist MSP winning 64 seats, another former ruling coalition party, the RND, winning 57, and independent candidates taking 78 seats.
However, most of the elected members of parliament are expected to support President Abdelmadjid Tebboune's programme, including economic reforms.
Islamist parties had hoped to benefit from the unrest of the past two years of protests that pushed the veteran president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, from office and led to the jailing of numerous senior officials.
But the biggest difference from previous elections was the much larger number of independents winning seats in parliament, with Islamists retaining about the same share as previously.
The leaderless "Hirak" mass protest movement boycotted the vote, as it had the 2019 election that installed Tebboune in place of Bouteflika.
Hirak has said any vote that takes place while the current establishment remains in place, and while the army interferes in politics, cannot be fair.
While elections before Hirak's rise had higher official turnout figures, they were still often marked by a large number of abstentions.
The make-up of the new parliament is expected to shape the next government, which will face a looming economic crisis with Algeria having spent more than four fifths of its foreign currency reserves since 2013.


Egypt, Qatar agree to settle outstanding issues

Egypt, Qatar agree to settle outstanding issues
Updated 15 June 2021

Egypt, Qatar agree to settle outstanding issues

Egypt, Qatar agree to settle outstanding issues
  • Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani receives written message from Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi
  • Egypt and Qatar FMs also meet in Doha to discuss the re-activation of bilateral cooperation between countries

CAIRO: Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on Tuesday held talks with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who visited Doha to deliver a message from Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

The Qatari news agency reported: “The emir received a written message from the president of Egypt on enhancing relations between the two countries and means of strengthening bilateral relations in a way that serves the interests of the two brotherly countries and peoples.”

Shoukry arrived in Doha on Sunday carrying El-Sisi’s message on the positive developments in Egyptian-Qatari relations following the AlUla Declaration.

The declaration “strengthens the bonds of friendship and brotherhood among our countries and peoples in order to serve their aspirations,” Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the GCC Summit when the AlUla Declaration was signed on Jan. 5.

El-Sisi said in his letter that Egypt looks forward to taking more measures during the upcoming period to enhance bilateral cooperation in a way that serves the interests of both peoples and countries, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez said.

Shoukry also held talks with Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani as they discussed the re-activation of bilateral cooperation and means of settling all the outstanding issues between both countries.

Hafez said the meeting also covered the most prominent challenges facing the Arab countries and the region.

Both ministers also discussed the Arab League meeting held on Tuesday about the most prominent regional issues and ways to deal with external interventions harmful to Arab national security, Hafez said.

They highlighted the importance of stressing Arab solidarity with Egypt and Sudan during a session scheduled to be held on the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, he said.

Shoukry will attend the meeting, following a request from Egypt and Sudan.


Dubai authorities say cracking down on owners of illegal wildlife

Dubai authorities say cracking down on owners of illegal wildlife
Updated 15 June 2021

Dubai authorities say cracking down on owners of illegal wildlife

Dubai authorities say cracking down on owners of illegal wildlife
  • Joint task force of Dubai police and municipal authorities responded to many cases of violation during the past weeks
  • Authorities are working to curb violators and confiscate wild and dangerous animals to keep them away from residential areas

DUBAI: Dubai authorities said Tuesday a joint task force was cracking down on the illegal possession of dangerous animals in the Gulf emirate, where owning exotic wildlife remains popular in some circles.
The joint task force of Dubai police and municipal authorities “has responded to many cases of violation during the past weeks,” a police statement said.
Authorities are working “around the clock to curb violators and confiscate wild and dangerous animals to keep them away from residential areas,” it said, urging members of the public to report and hand over such animals.
In mid-May, Dubai police said a hunt was underway for a wild animal on the loose in a residential neighborhood, after reports of an escaped big cat.
A video of what appeared to be a big black cat circulated on social media groups, and residents of The Springs community were warned to “exercise all necessary caution.”
Local media later reported that animal turned out to be a domestic cat.
A 2016 federal law prohibits people “from owning, possessing, trading or breeding dangerous animals,” with a maximum penalty of six months in prison and/or a 500,000 dirham ($136,000) fine, according to the statement.
Despite the penalties, private zoos are not uncommon in the United Arab Emirates.


Treasures of ancient Iraq go on display at Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles

Treasures of ancient Iraq go on display at Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles
Updated 15 June 2021

Treasures of ancient Iraq go on display at Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles

Treasures of ancient Iraq go on display at Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles
  • Exhibits showcase pieces from across Mesopotamia and relief sculptures from the palaces of Assyria

LOS ANGELES: The Getty Villa Museum in Los Angeles is reopening with two exhibits on ancient Iraq: a showcase of pieces from across Mesopotamia organized by the Louvre and, on loan from the British Museum, relief sculptures from the palaces of Assyria.

“The late Assyrian empire rose around 900 B.C. and dominated the entire Middle East for about 300 years,” explained Jeffrey Spier, the museum’s senior curator of antiquities.

“We have some of the reliefs of Ashurnasirpal II hunting lions which was a popular pastime of the kings to glorify the kings. We have scenes of battles, rather gruesome scenes, very graphic scenes of battles. And we end at the time of Ashurbanipal, the most famous of the kings in the 7th Century BC who defeated the Elamites in Iran, is shown and is shown at a banquet, one of his famous scenes is here.”

The importance of these sculptures has increased after several of those in Iraqi museums were destroyed or damaged by Daesh extremists during their occupation of large parts of the country. 

“The ones still in Iraq are being preserved now,” Spier said. “I know they’re doing very good work at restoring what was damaged.”

The Louvre’s Mesopotamian artifacts will be on display until August 2021, and the Assyrian relief sculptures until 2022. In that time, the Getty Villa is excited to show the culture of ancient Iraq to everyone traveling to Southern California.

“Los Angeles has become a place for tourism again,” Spier said. “We look forward to welcoming visitors especially from the Middle East.”