WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan24) – The US has announced a new initiative to cut off Hezbollah’s financial resources under its “Rewards for Justice” program, which offers substantial compensation for information that helps to combat international terrorism.
The Rewards for Justice program usually targets individuals. However, for the first time, the State Department, which operates the program, is targeting an entire organization: Hezbollah’s financial network. It is offering up to ten million dollars for “information leading to the disruption of financial activities that support the global terrorist organization, Lebanese Hezbollah,” Michael Evanoff, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, told journalists on Monday.
In discussing the new initiative, US officials praised the role of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in its work alongside the US government to cut off Hezbollah’s funding.
US officials briefing the press focused on three individuals: Adham Tabaja, Ali Youssef Charara, and Mohamed Ibrahim Bazzi. All three had earlier been designated for their roles in supporting Hezbollah, but Monday marked the first time that the US was offering rewards for information about them.
Tabaja, in particular, is active in Iraq and operates a business there, “Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting.” Tabaja is also a member of Hezbollah, according to the Treasury Department, and has direct ties to its senior leadership.
The US has targeted Tabaja for the past four years. He “once ruled a vast commercial and construction network across the Middle East,” Marshall Billingslea, the Treasury Department’s Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, told reporters. But since 2015, when Tabaja was designated a terrorist financier, “We have gone after three branches of his business” and “worked with foreign governments to dismantle his companies in Ghana, Iraq, Lebanon, and Sierra Leone.”
Billingslea stressed just how keen US officials are to obtain information about Hezbollah’s sources of revenue. “I reiterate,” he said, “We will pay up to $10 million for information that leads to disruption of Hezbollah’s financial networks.”
Asked by Kurdistan 24 about the Kurdish role in that effort, Billingslea replied, “We have a very good relationship with the KRG on these kinds of financial matters, and we appreciate greatly their support.”
After the briefing, Kurdistan 24 spoke with Michael Evanoff, who similarly described KRG cooperation in working with the US against Hezbollah’s activities as “excellent.”
“We see this as another opening chapter of our two parties coming together to go after a malign organization that is hurting the west and the Middle East,” he said.
Evanoff also explained how people can get information on Hezbollah financial activity to the US government and receive a reward, if it proves valuable.
It is “very simple,” he said. If they have “actionable information,” they should report it to the nearest US diplomatic facility, whether the consulate in Erbil or the embassy in Baghdad.
“We’ll talk to them, strictly confidential,” he continued. “Their protection will be guaranteed.”
The State Department’s Rewards for Justice program has a , where it has posted its latest reward announcement in Kurdish.
The Rewards for Justice program began in 1984, under the Reagan administration. Among its biggest successes was the arrest of Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 Trade Center bombing, which, like the 9/11 attacks eight years later, aimed to bring down the two towers.
Yousef was known among the New York extremists as “Rashid, the Iraqi” and had entered the US on an Iraqi passport. However, he proved not to be Iraqi, nor even Arab.
Yousef was Baluch. He was arrested in Islamabad in 1995, following an abortive attempt to bomb a dozen US airliners in the Philippines, when a young South African Muslim, whom he tried to recruit into yet another terrorist plot, reported him to US authorities.
Editing by Nadia Riva