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U.S. sanctions Lebanon-South America network accused of financing Hezbollah

Fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah carry out a training exercise in Aaramta village in the Jezzine District, southern Lebanon, Sunday, May 21, 2023. The U.S. Treasury on Tuesday slapped terrorism sanctions on a family network of seven individuals and businesses in Lebanon and South America accused of financing Hezbollah. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar) Fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah carry out a training exercise in Aaramta village in the Jezzine District, southern Lebanon, Sunday, May 21, 2023. The U.S. Treasury on Tuesday slapped terrorism sanctions on a family network of seven individuals and businesses in Lebanon and South America accused of financing Hezbollah. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
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BEIRUT -

The U.S. Treasury on Tuesday slapped terrorism sanctions on a family network of seven individuals and businesses in Lebanon and South America accused of financing the militant group Hezbollah, including a Lebanese man who officials say was involved in two deadly attacks in Argentina in the 1990s.

Amer Mohamed Akil Rada was described as "one of the operational members" who carried out the attack on the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association in Buenos Aires in 1994, which killed 85 people and wounded hundreds. A 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina killed 29 people.

"Today's action underscores the U.S. government's commitment to pursuing Hezbollah operatives and financiers no matter their location," said Brian Nelson, the Treasury's under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a statement.

The Iran-backed group is designated a "foreign terrorist organization," and Washington also claims that the group has been involved in drug trafficking in Latin America to generate revenue.

Rada, according to the Treasury, spent over a decade in South America before relocating to Lebanon. During his time there, he allegedly ran a charcoal business that frequently exported from Colombia to Lebanon and used "80 percent of the proceeds of his commercial enterprise to benefit Hezbollah".

Rada's brother, Samer, was also sanctioned and accused of being involved in various drug trafficking and money laundering operations across Latin America. According to the Treasury, he was previously based in Belize but fled due to a drug-related case and was involved in smuggling 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) of cocaine worth $15 million hidden in fruit shipments seized in El Salvador.

He also heads Venezuelan-based company BCI Technologies CA, which some reports say is a prominent cryptocurrency consultancy firm in the country.

The U.S. also sanctioned Rada's son, identified as Mehdi Akil Helbawi, and his Colombia-based venture Zanga S.A.S., the coal exporting company that officials say his father used to fund Hezbollah.

The Treasury also slapped sanctions on Lebanon-based company Black Diamond SARL and owner Ali Ismail Ajrouch. The company reportedly transferred some $40,000 to the Colombia-based coal company.

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