Treasury acts against Hezbollah financing

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Bush administration took action yesterday against an Iran-based foundation, including its U.S. branch, accusing it of providing support to Hezbollah, a terrorist group that the United States has blamed for bloodshed in the Middle East.

The Treasury Department“s action covers the Martyrs Foundation and the Goodwill Charitable Organization of Dearborn, Mich., which the government identified as a fundraising office for the foundation.

“We will not allow organizations that support terrorism to raise money in the United States,” said Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department“s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

FBI agents removed boxes from the Goodwill Charitable Organization“s Dearborn office yesterday.

Dawn Clenney, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Detroit, said members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force executed a series of search warrants. She said agents removed paper files from the Goodwill Charitable Organization but that no arrests were made.

About a mile away, FBI agents were seen inside the office of the Al-Mabarrat Charitable Organization.

“There is no known threat to U.S. homeland security regarding these” searches, Miss Clenney said.

The Treasury Department also moved against al-Qard al-Hassan, a Beirut firm that the U.S. government suspects was used by Hezbollah “as a cover to manage its financial activity.”

Two Lebanese men — Qasem Aliq and Ahmad al-Shami — are covered by Treasury“s order.

The U.S. identified Mr. Aliq as a Hezbollah official who was once the director of the Martyrs Foundation“s branch in Lebanon. The U.S. says he is a director of Jihad al Bina, a Lebanon-based construction company thought to have been formed and operated by Hezbollah.

Mr. al-Shami worked for the foundation in Lebanon and has been in “frequent contact” with the Goodwill Charitable Organization, the department said. Goodwill Charitable Organization sent him money to distribute to the Martyrs Foundation, the department said.

The Treasury Department“s action means that any bank accounts or other financial assets found in the United States that belong to those identified yesterday must be frozen. Americans are prohibited from conducting business with them.

No current telephone listing was available for Goodwill Charitable Organization.

The department called Goodwill Charitable Organization, or GCO, “a Hezbollah front organization that reports directly to the leadership of the Martyrs Foundation in Lebanon.”

Hezbollah recruited GCO leaders and had maintained close contact with GCO representatives in the United States,” the department said.

Goodwill Charitable Organization purportedly provided “financial support to Hezbollah directly and through the Martyrs Foundation in Lebanon,” Treasury stated. “Hezbollah“s leaders in Lebanon have instructed Hezbollah members in the United States to send their contributions to GCO and to contact the GCO for the purpose of contributing to the Martyrs Foundation.

“Since its founding,” Treasury said, “GCO has sent a significant amount of money to the Martyrs Foundation in Lebanon.”

The department said the Martyrs Foundation channels financial support from Iran to terrorist groups including Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

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