By Lesley Wroughton
WASHINGTON, May 17 (Reuters) – The United States sought on Thursday to further choke off funding sources for Iranian-backed Hezbollah, imposing sanctions on its representative to Iran, as well as a major financier and his five companies in Europe, West Africa and the Middle East.
The U.S. Treasury said Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi was a Hezbollah financier operating through Belgium, Lebanon and Iraq, and was a close associate of Gambia’s former president Yahya Jammeh, who is accused of acquiring vast wealth during his decades-long rule.
It also imposed sanctions on Hezbollah’s representative to Iran, Abdallah Safi Al-Din, who it said served as an interlocutor between Hezbollah and Iran on financial issues.
The department said it had blacklisted Belgian energy services conglomerate Global Trading Group; Gambia-based petroleum company Euro African Group; and Lebanon-based Africa Middle East Investment Holding, Premier Investment Group SAL Offshore and import-export group Car Escort Services. All were designated because they are owned or controlled by Bazzi, the Treasury said.
“The savage and depraved acts of one of Hezbollah’s most prominent financiers cannot be tolerated,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
“This administration will expose and disrupt Hezbollah and Iranian terror networks at every turn, including those with ties to the Central Bank of Iran,” he said.
The sanctions are among a slew of fresh measures aimed at Iran and Hezbollah since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last week.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to outline in a speech in Washington on Monday plans by the United States to build a coalition to look closer at what it sees as Iran’s “destabilizing activities,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters at the State Department.
In one of the biggest moves this week aimed at clamping down on Iran’s overseas operations, the Treasury sanctioned Iran’s central bank governor, Valiollah Seif.
On Wednesday, the United States, backed by Gulf States, imposed additional sanctions on Hezbollah’s top two leaders, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Naim Qassem.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton, Additional reporting by Tim Ahmann and Doina Chiacu, Editing by G Crosse and Rosalba O’Brien)