Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 27 September 2020

Exclusive: sanctioned Hezbollah agent has close ties to Iran’s money laundering network in Iraq

The National has obtained new details about accused Mohammad Abd Al Hadi Farhat’s business activities

Hezbollah vehicles parade in the streets. Reuters  
Hezbollah vehicles parade in the streets. Reuters  

A shadowy Hezbollah intelligence operative in Iraq has close ties to what the US refers to as a key money-laundering network by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, an investigation by The National has found.

In November 2018, the US sanctioned Mohammad Abd Al Hadi Farhat, saying the Lebanese citizen was advising militias in Iraq for Hezbollah, as well as collecting intelligence for the organisation.

“Farhat has been involved in a project to analyse and report on the Iraqi security situation for Hezbollah and the IRGC-QF,” according to the US Department of the Treasury, referring to the foreign operations wing of Iran’s paramilitary force.

The US government did not provide more information on Mr Farhat, but The National has obtained further data on the accused Hezbollah official’s activities. Mr Farhat is close to an alleged money launderer for the IRGC’s Quds Force, with interests in Iraq.

Hezbollah and its Iranian benefactors have worked in tandem in Iraq, building influence there and benefiting from a network of businesses to finance their operations.

“Iraq is becoming very important for Hezbollah fundraising,” said Michael Knights, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Corporate documents reviewed by The National, as well as a copy of Mr Farhat’s ID, reveal that in 2004 he established General Services Co S.A.R.L, an import-export company with branches in Beirut and southern Lebanon. Although the company has little public presence, it has been active in recent years, with its board of directors meeting as recently as April 2017.

One of the alleged Hezbollah spy’s business partners in the little-known company is married to Mohammad Abd Al Amir Farhat, who was sanctioned by the US in 2017 for allegedly being part of a “key IRGC-QF-run support network working with Hezbollah”.

Beyond being brothers-in-law, the two Farhats are cousins who come from the southern Lebanese village of Arab Salim, according to a funeral notice reviewed by The National.

Lebanese corporate documents reveal further ties between the two. One of Mohammad Abd Al Hadi Farhat’s fellow owners of General Services Co, Hassan Maqshar, went into business with Mohammad Abd Al Amir Farhat in 2010, forming a company that disposes of medical waste.

Mohammad Abd Al Amir Farhat’s boss, Iranian citizen Hasan Ebrahimi, had direct ties to top Quds Force officials in Tehran, according to the US, which said he helped move money for Hezbollah.

While the US sanctioned companies owned by Mr Ebrahimi’s right-hand men, it did not name any companies firms owned by the Quds Force official. Lebanese documents reveal his holdings in the country.

Mr Ebrahimi is a shareholder of the Beirut-based Finance & Help SAL Offshore, alongside Mohammad Abd Al Amir Farhat. The company registered a branch in Iraq.

“Iraq is becoming a cash cow for the Axis of Resistance,” Mr Knights said in reference to the Tehran-led alliance in the region.

Mr Knights, who has conducted extensive research on the topic, said Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions against Iran has prompted the "Axis of Resistance" to raise funds from business deals in Iraq.

“Starting from 2018 and 2019 we saw unprecedented levels of Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah influence at the centre of the Iraqi government,” Mr Knights said, and this led to a new surge in Hezbollah illicit financing in the country.

Updated: April 5, 2020 09:12 AM

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