US sanctions Lebanese MPs and tycoons for ‘profiting from widespread corruption’

The US Treasury imposed sanctions on prominent Lebanese magnates Jihad al-Arab and Dany Khoury and legislator Jamil Sayyed for allegedly profiting from corruption and contributing to the collapse of the rule of law in the country.

All three “have personally benefited from widespread corruption and cronyism in Lebanon, enriching themselves at the expense of the Lebanese people and state institutions,” the US Treasury said.

“While the Lebanese people face daily struggles to access basic public goods, including medicines, electricity and food, during a historic and devastating economic crisis, members of the Lebanese political class and their cronies operate with impunity to enrich themselves and hide. their wealth, “the Treasury said in a statement.

The Treasury said al-Arab has used close political connections and bribery payments to win major public contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars in which it over-billed the government and, in an emergency deal to tackle the garbage crisis. from Beirut in 2016, did not solve the problem.

The Treasury also said it won two government contracts worth $ 200 million after negotiating a political settlement in 2014 before the election.

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Khoury, he said, used his ties to already sanctioned politician Gibran Bassil to win lucrative contracts “while not significantly fulfilling the terms of those contracts.”

“Khoury and his company have been accused of dumping toxic waste and waste into the Mediterranean Sea, poisoning fisheries and polluting Lebanon’s beaches, all while failing to remedy the garbage crisis,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sayyed was accused of circumventing banking regulations to move $ 120 million abroad.

“During the 2019 protests, when protesters protested in front of his house demanding his resignation and calling him corrupt, Sayyed called on officials to shoot and kill the protesters,” the Treasury said.

The sanctions order the seizure of any property the three have under US jurisdiction, be it bank accounts or real estate or other assets.

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They also prohibit US individuals or companies, including financial institutions with a US presence, from transacting with all three, effectively restricting their access to global financial and business networks.

The Treasury justified the sanctions by saying that corruption has undermined the rule of law and governance in Lebanon, which is currently mired in a deep political and economic crisis.

Its currency has plummeted in value and people are struggling day by day, their savings are locked in banks, and inflation is skyrocketing. Even the central bank has been suspected of the corruption that has fueled the crisis.

Washington and global organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are pushing for sweeping reforms, but political wrangling continues to stall progress.

In June, the World Bank said that Lebanon’s economic collapse will likely rank among the world’s worst financial crises since the mid-19th century.

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