US Treasury tightens yoke on Lebanese banking


Lebanese pound notes (10,000 denomination) are seen in a machine at Lebanon’s central bank, BdL, in Beirut on November 24, 2008. PHOTO/Ramzi Haidar/AFP

Washington blacklists Lebanon’s Jammal Trust Bank amid heightened worry over the viability of the US dollar peg

The United States on Thursday slapped sanctions on Lebanon’s Jammal Trust Bank, the latest in a string of moves meant to pressure the Lebanese authorities into further isolating Hezbollah.

“Treasury is targeting Jammal Trust Bank and its subsidiaries for brazenly enabling Hizballah’s financial activities,” the US Department of the Treasury said, using its preferred spelling for the Islamist group. 

“Jammal Trust provides support and services to Hizballah’s Executive Council and the Martyrs Foundation, which funnels money to the families of suicide bombers,” a department official elaborated. 

It was unclear which suicide bombers he was referring to, as the Shiite group has not deployed suicide bombers since the 1980s, and only then in extremely rare cases.

The bank immediately denied the allegations and promised to challenge the designation.

The larger point, however, appeared to be to send tremors across the Lebanese financial system, less than a week after the country was downgraded by Fitch to distress-level credit.

“This action is a warning to all who provide services to this terrorist group,” the Treasury statement said.

USAID partner

Jammal Trust Bank has engaged in a “long-standing relationship” with Hezbollah financial entities, the Department of Treasury alleged in its statement.

As recently as June 2018, however, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered with Jammal Trust to launch its Financial Inclusion and Financial Literacy Initiatives meant to support disadvantaged communities.

“This American-Lebanese partnership will bring these disadvantaged groups into the financial system. It will promote saving and increase access to finance, thereby improving lives. This should generate additional economic activity to keep the Lebanese economy moving forward,” US Chargé d’Affaires Edward White said at the time.

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