March 9, 2022 | Policy Brief

Treasury Targets Hezbollah’s West African Finance Network

March 9, 2022 | Policy Brief

Treasury Targets Hezbollah’s West African Finance Network

The U.S. Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions last week on Ali Saade and Ibrahim Taher, two prominent Lebanese entrepreneurs based in the West African country of Guinea. According to Treasury, Saade and Taher have direct links to Hezbollah, used bribery and political influence to curry favor with local rulers on Hezbollah’s behalf, and assisted Hezbollah in the transfer of vast sums of money.

Following previous designations of Hezbollah financiers in West Africa, Treasury’s latest round of designations further exposes the ongoing cooperation between Lebanese expatriate entrepreneurs and Hezbollah’s terror finance activities. Saade and Taher both live and run successful businesses in Conakry, Guinea’s capital, with branches in neighboring countries. Both men deny the accusations against them and announced they would take legal action to reverse their designations.

Saade is the chairman of Lebanon’s SICOM Group, a business conglomerate involved in fishing, food, other food commodities, and real estate. It has affiliates in several West African nations, including Sonit Guinea and Sonit Mali. Saade is also a shareholder in five companies in Lebanon. He is also, reportedly, Lebanon’s honorary consul to Guinea. Treasury accused Saade of having facilitated political contacts on behalf of Hezbollah financier Kassem Tajeddin, who was sanctioned in 2009, arrested and extradited in 2017, and later convicted in federal court for providing financial support to Hezbollah. Saade has publicly confirmed that he served as a go-between for Tajeddin and Guinea’s then-president, Alpha Condé, in 2013.

Taher is the chairman of Taher Fabrique de Guinee (TaFaGui), a business conglomerate that trades in food commodities such as flour. According to Treasury, Taher is a key Hezbollah financial supporter in Guinea, has bribed local officials to move cash through Conakry’s international airport en route to Lebanon, and employs several people whom Treasury called Hezbollah “affiliates” in Guinea. Treasury also notes that Taher, like Saade, holds diplomatic status as an honorary consul of Lebanon — in his case, for neighboring Ivory Coast.

West Africa has been a key center of Hezbollah’s financial activity for over a decade now, with Ivory Coast serving as a hub for money transfers. In 2009, along with its designation of Tajeddin, Treasury also sanctioned Abd al-Menhem Qubaysi, a cleric in charge of a Shiite mosque in Marcory, Abidjan, whom Treasury described as a Hezbollah supporter and personal representative of Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah. According to Treasury, Qubaysi was involved in terror finance and recruitment. Local authorities expelled him shortly after Treasury’s designation. Qubaysi’s successor, Sheikh Ghaleb Khojok, is a major depositor at Hezbollah’s unofficial bank, al-Qard al-Hassan (AQAH), which Washington has also designated. Khojok’s ties to AQAH became public after an anonymous hackers’ group leaked the identities of numerous AQAH account holders in December 2020.

There are strong links between the Shiite Lebanese communities in Ivory Coast and Guinea. Saade illustrates this connection, given his role as Lebanon’s honorary consul in Ivory Coast despite having his business and residential base in Guinea. These links encompass a network of Shiite religious and cultural institutions as well as the business community. Yet this is the first Treasury designation of a Hezbollah network in Guinea.

Treasury’s latest designations are a small, albeit important, step forward in U.S. efforts to identify Hezbollah’s financial backers in West Africa. However, Washington has only begun to document the extent of Hezbollah’s penetration and co-optation of Shiite communities in the region.

Emanuele Ottolenghi is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where he contributes to FDD’s Iran Program and Center on Economic and Financial Power (CEFP). For more analysis from Emanuele, the Iran Program, and CEFP, please subscribe HERE. Follow Emanuele on Twitter @eottolenghi. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and @FDD_Iran and @FDD_CEFP. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy.


Hezbollah Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Sanctions and Illicit Finance