Yusuf Finyanus

Yusuf Finyanus is a U.S.-designated national and the former Lebanese minister of transportation and public works. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Finyanus exploited his position in the Lebanese government to provide funding and resources to Hezbollah-owned companies. Although Finyanus was not directly connected to the Beirut port explosion on August 10, 2020, Hezbollah was granted considerable control over the area’s activities during Finyanus’s time in office. Hezbollah’s negligence over port safety is alleged to be the source of the deadly blast.“Treasury Targets Hizballah’s Enablers in Lebanon,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 8, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1116; Ian Talley and Nazih Osseiran, “U.S. Seeks to Reshape Lebanese Government With New Sanctions,” Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-sanctions-two-former-lebanese-government-officials-11599587476.

According to the Treasury Department, Finyanus began working with Hezbollah in 2015, when the terrorist group provided Finyanus hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for political favors. During that time, Finyanus also regularly met with Wafiq Safa, a U.S.-designated leader in Hezbollah’s security apparatus who had alleged control over borders and ports.“Treasury Targets Hizballah’s Enablers in Lebanon,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 8, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1116.; Ian Talley and Nazih Osseiran, “U.S. Seeks to Reshape Lebanese Government With New Sanctions,” Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-sanctions-two-former-lebanese-government-officials-11599587476.

Finyanus, a member of the Marada Movement—a political party and ally of Hezbollah—was appointed minister of transportation and public works in 2016 and served for four years.“Treasury Targets Hizballah’s Enablers in Lebanon,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 8, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1116; Ben Hubbard, “Lebanon’s Government Resigns Amid Widespread Anger Over Blast,” New York Times, August 10, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/10/world/middleeast/lebanon-government-resigns-beirut.html; “Lebanon crisis: US puts sanctions on former ministers allied to Hezbollah,” BBC News, September 10, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-54085122. During this time, it was reported that Finyanus siphoned and redirected funds from government budgets towards Hezbollah-owned companies to win bids for Lebanese government contracts worth millions of dollars.“Treasury Targets Hizballah’s Enablers in Lebanon,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 8, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1116. Finyanus also diverted funds from the ministry to boost political allies.“Treasury Targets Hizballah’s Enablers in Lebanon,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 8, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1116. Additionally, it is reported that Finyanus provided Hezbollah members with access to sensitive legal materials related to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon—an independent, judicial organization that was established by the United Nations but is neither a U.N. court nor part of the Lebanese judicial system. The tribunal is composed of Lebanese and international judges that deals with terrorism as a discrete crime. The tribunal’s primary mandate is to hold trials for the people accused of carrying out a bomb attack in Beirut on February 14, 2005 in which the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, and 22 others were killed.“Treasury Targets Hizballah’s Enablers in Lebanon,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 8, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1116; “About the STL,” Special Tribunal for Lebanon, https://www.stl-tsl.org/en/about-the-stl.

On August 4, 2020, a large explosion caused by improperly stored ammonium nitrate erupted at the port of Beirut, leading to a series of smaller blasts that accumulated into one large supersonic blast throughout the city. The explosion caused immeasurable damage to the capital. Around 191 people were killed, 5,000 others were injured, and over 300,000 people were left homeless.“Beirut explosion: What we know so far,” BBC News, August 11, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-53668493. The explosion resulted in mass protests against government negligence and corruption and led to the resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s entire cabinet on August 10, 2020, including Finyanus.Ben Hubbard, “Lebanon’s Government Resigns Amid Widespread Anger Over Blast,” New York Times, August 10, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/10/world/middleeast/lebanon-government-resigns-beirut.html; Emily Beeken, “US sanctions former Lebanon government ministers for connections to Hezbollah,” Jurist, September 10, 2020, https://www.jurist.org/news/2020/09/us-sanctions-former-lebanon-government-ministers-for-connections-to-hezbollah/.

While the investigation is ongoing, Hezbollah’s “unofficial” control over activities in the port of Beirut has made the Iranian-sponsored terror group culpable, as they are known to use the port for illegal drug smuggling operations and other criminal activities. According to Lebanese intelligence sources, Hezbollah-controlled buildings in the port housed weapons and fireworks, and the explosions were reportedly sparked by a fire at one of the Hezbollah warehouses.“Beirut Explosion Increases Scrutiny Of Lebanese Political Class, Role Of Hezbollah,” Counter Extremism Project, August 12, 2020, https://www.counterextremism.com/press/beirut-explosion-increases-scrutiny-lebanese-political-class-role-hezbollah.

On September 8, 2020, Finyanus was listed as a Specially Designated National by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control for providing material support to Hezbollah and for engaging in corruption.“Treasury Targets Hizballah’s Enablers in Lebanon,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 8, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1116. Although the Treasury Department did not directly blame Finyanus’s activities for resulting in the Beirut explosion, the designation serves as a way to amplify calls for a more transparent and accountable government in Lebanon.“Treasury Targets Hizballah’s Enablers in Lebanon,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 8, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1116; “US sanctions two former Lebanese ministers over Hezbollah links,” Al-Monitor, September 9, 2020, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/09/lebanon-sanctions-finyanus-khalil-beirut-hezbollah-oort.html.

United States

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Yusuf Finyanus as a Specially Designated National on September 8, 2020.“Treasury Targets Hizballah’s Enablers in Lebanon,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 8, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1116.

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