- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 6, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Bush administration took action yesterday aimed at choking off a major fundraising channel for Hezbollah operating in the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

The Treasury Department’s action covers nine new persons and two entities — a shopping center in Paraguay and an electronics company, Casa Hamze, located in the shopping center.

As a result, Americans are forbidden from doing business with them, and any bank accounts or other financial assets belonging to the designated people and entities found in the United States must be frozen.

The department reports that those designated have provided financial and logistical support to the Islamic militant group Hezbollah, which the United States considers a terrorist organization. The Lebanon-based Hezbollah is suspected of involvement in terrorist attacks worldwide.

The United States also blames Hezbollah for triggering bloodshed in the Middle East involving Lebanon, Israel and the terrorist group during the summer and more recently stirring political unrest in Lebanon.

Specifically, the department reports that the nine persons gave financial and other assistance to Assad Ahmad Barakat, whom the government several years ago added to its asset-blocking list for his support of Hezbollah.

“Assad Ahmad Barakat’s network in the tri-border area is a major financial artery to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” said Adam Szubin, director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The Treasury Department reported that Muhammad Yusif Abdallah is a senior Hezbollah leader in the tri-border area and an important financial backer of the terror group.

It says Mr. Abdallah is an owner and manager of the Galeria Page shopping center located in Paraguay, which the department also designated yesterday.

The department reported that Mr. Abdallah pays a percentage of his income to Hezbollah based on the profits he receives from the shopping center. It contends that Mr. Abdallah has been involved in importing contraband electronics, falsifying passports, credit-card fraud and trafficking counterfeit U.S. dollars.

Hamzi Ahmad Barakat also was designated, with the government charging that he is a Hezbollah member in the tri-border area and has served as a source of funding for the terror group through his electronics store, Casa Hamze.

He also is suspected of trafficking in narcotics, counterfeit U.S. dollars, arms and explosives, the government said.

Hatim Ahmad Barakat, who has traveled to Chile to collect money for Hezbollah and is the brother of Assad Ahmad Barakat, also was named.

Others named yesterday were: Muhammad Fayez Barakat, whom the government says is responsible for the Barakat network’s finances; Muhammad Tarabain Chamas and Saleh Mahmoud Fayad, whom the government says have been involved in counterintelligence; Sobhi Mahmoud Fayad, who the government says served as a liaison between the Iranian Embassy and the Hezbollah community in the tri-border area; Ali Muhammad Kazan, who helped raise more than $500,000 for Hezbollah from Lebanese businessmen in the tri-border region, the government purports; and Farouk Omairi, whom the government says is a member of the Hezbollah community in the tri-border area.

The tri-border region is considered a haven for arms traffickers, smugglers and counterfeiters and is home is thousands of Lebanese Muslims. It was once described by the U.S. State Department as a “focal point for Islamic extremism in Latin America.”

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