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US sanctions two Lebanese businessmen, a lawmaker for corruption

According to the decision, all property and interests belonging to the three men in the United States will be blocked.

The United States Treasury has imposed sanctions on two top Lebanese contractors and a lawmaker close to the Hezbollah movement over alleged large-scale corruption that undermined the rule of law in Lebanon.

Businessmen Jihad al-Arab and Dany Khoury, close to former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and Christian politician Gebran Bassil respectively, were sanctioned for alleged corruption related to state contracts, a statement by the Treasury said on Thursday.

Lawmaker Jamil Sayyed was sanctioned for allegedly seeking to “skirt domestic banking policies and regulations” and transfer $120m abroad, “presumably to enrich himself and his associates,” according to the statement.

“The Lebanese people deserve an end to the endemic corruption perpetuated by businessmen and politicians who have driven their country into an unprecedented crisis,” said Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control Andrea M Gacki.

“Now is the time to implement necessary economic reforms and put an end to the corrupt practices eroding Lebanon’s foundations. Treasury will not hesitate to use its tools to address impunity in Lebanon,” he added.

As a result of the decision, “all property and interests” belonging to the three men in the United States will be blocked.

According to the Treasury’s statement, al-Arab is a wealthy businessman who has been awarded multiple public contracts in exchange for kickback payments to government officials.

It said that al-Arab’s company won an $18m contract to restore a Beirut bridge, “concerns from municipal officials about the cost of the project and safety-related issues were quickly overruled, almost certainly as a result of al-Arab’s relationship with powerful politicians”.

Also a wealthy businessman, Khoury, who is a close associate of US-designated Gibran Bassil, has been “the recipient of large public contracts that have reaped him millions of dollars while failing to meaningfully fulfill the terms of those contracts,” the Treasury said.

During the 2019 anti-establishment protests that spread across the country, Sayyed reportedly called on officials to shoot and kill demonstrators when they protested outside his home demanding his resignation, according to the statement.

Two years ago, mass nationwide protests demanded accountability for rampant corruption and financial mismanagement, as well as an end to decades of rule at the hands of the country’s sectarian leadership.

A common call among protesters at the time was an independent judiciary to investigate corrupt politicians and business people.

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