Lebanon will comply with the implementation of a new U.S. law that imposes sanctions on banks that do business with the terror group Hezbollah.
Lebanon’s central bank governor Riad Salameh said in a statement, "The US law has to be implemented worldwide and in Lebanon. It is not possible to guarantee credit stability if (the central bank) does not implement the US law.
"If we do not do that … our banking sector could become isolated from the world."
Hezbollah is an Iranian-financed Shiite terror group in Lebanon and was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in the U.S. in 1997. The US Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act (HIFPA) was signed into law on December 18 and regulations were issued last Friday by the U.S. Department of Treasury.
The law covered “significant” amounts of money and not smaller amounts, such as salaries. Salameh said that decisions to close accounts will not be made arbitrarily and will be overseen by the central bank to ensure that any closures made are justified.
Hezbollah has insinuated itself into almost every sector of Lebanese society, from government ministers, legislators and local councilors and has substantial support from the country’s Shiite community. However, Lebanon’s banking sector is one of the country’s few institutions that “enjoys independence,” including the Central Bank’s Special Investigation Committee, according to Salameh.
The bill targets those "knowingly facilitating a significant transaction or transactions for" Hezbollah and those "knowingly facilitating a significant transaction or transactions of a person identified on the List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked persons."
Top persons on the list are Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and his top military commander Mustafa Badreddine. Media outlets connected to the terror group, including Al-Manar TV and Al-Nour Radio, are also included on the list.
When the bill was passed in December, Nasrallah declared, "We have no money in Lebanese banks, neither in the past nor now. We don't transfer our money through the Lebanese banking system."
Implementation of the bill will be done “in such a way that will support the Lebanese economy, that will support the Lebanese financial system, and will not target innocent people," said U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby.
Lebanon’s banking sector contributes around six percent of the country’s gross domestic product.