Lebanese financial watchdog group warns that exposed clients linked to terrorism and crime face investigation.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
An Arab hacker group claims it broke into computer servers of the private bank of the Hezbollah terror group and released sensitive financial data, the Lebanese news website The961 reported Tuesday.
The group called “SpiderZ” released a video showing what it claims are internal documents and pictures from security cameras of Al-Qard Al-Hassan, Hezbollah‘s financial charity institution that is suspected of acting as the terror group‘s private bank for laundering money.
Al-Qard Al-Hassan is registered as a charity in Lebanon, but provides banking services to its clients and the hackers posted pictures that appear to be taken from security cameras inside the bank showing customers lined up at bank tellers.
The video released on the SpiderZ Facebook page begins with a clip of the massive explosion in August that destroyed part of Beirut, killing over 200 people and damaging and destroying thousands of homes. Thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port blew up, with Hezbollah the main suspect.
Speaking in Arabic with a computer-altered voice, the narrator of the SpiderZ video says the group broke into the bank’s servers and displayed pages showing the names of big depositors along with other details from the database, and promising to publish additional details later.
The hackers claimed to have obtained all of Hezbollah‘s bank information and confirmed that Al-Qard Al-Hassan is not a charity, but a covert financial shelter for Hezbollah, The961 reported.
“Al-Qard Al-Hassan Association is no longer a secret. The association does not operate according to the international standards accepted in the financial market, which are designed to protect the people,” the hackers said.
Al-Qard Al-Hassan admitted to the Al-Ahed news agency affiliated with Hezbollah that their computers were breached, but claimed “this breach does not give the attackers the ability to act or move the accounts.”
The leaked information includes copies of passports and names of depositors, many of them identified online.
Also leaked were the names of Lebanese banks working with Al-Qard Al-Hassan, including the Jammal Trust Bank, which was sanctioned in 2019 over its activities linked directly to Hezbollah, the report said.
The Al-Qard Al-Hassan Association was established by Hezbollah in the 1980s as a charitable trust, but operates as a bank with 32 branches throughout Lebanon with annual loans of about $500 million and an annual profit of close to $20 million. As a charity, it is not subject to Lebanon’s banking laws that require transparency in reporting.
The bank holds 15 tons of gold worth around $500 million, The961 report said, adding that “it uses its charity status to evade tax payments, contributing nothing to the Lebanese economy.”
The Lebanese financial watchdog organization Double Cheque investigated the leaks and warned that many depositors at the Hezbollah bank may have used the institution to avoid the regular banking system and may be involved in tax evasion and money laundering tied to corruption and terror financing offenses.
According to its website, Double Cheque says it offers services to anyone “interested in maintaining legitimate business activities and avoiding illegal deals involving the use or transfer of terror funds and sanction-bypassing acts.
Double Cheque said al-Qard al-Hassan has 300,000 clients, warning that those “who choose to continue managing their financial activity at al-Qard al-Hassan are endangering their money and assets.”
“If your name or details appear on the leaked lists, you will be investigated by enforcement authorities in Lebanon or other countries, and, based on your function, you may also be of interest to the U.S. Treasury and Trade Department for your involvement in the association that was designated by the U.S. Treasury as an entity that aids terror funding (SDGT) in 2007, and activity you carried out through it,” Double Cheque warned.
“Pulling your money and assets out of Al-Qard Al-Hassan can help you reduce your ties with the association and reduce the risk to you, your money, and your assets,” the watchdog added.
According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) in Tel Aviv, the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 2016 included Al-Qard al-Hassan on the list of sanctioned Hezbollah foundations. That move failed to affect Al-Qard al-Hasan’s volume of activity, which despite the sanctions grew from $371 million in 2016 to $476 million in 2018.
“In the ITIC’s assessment, these figures indicate that the U.S. sanctions are ineffective in terms of Hezbollah’s internal activity in Lebanon,” the center said.