Israel penalizes groups laundering money for Hamas, involves hundreds of millions of dollars

The 20 organizations and individuals launder the money through shell companies based in several countries in the region.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel placed severe economic sanctions Wednesday on some 20 groups and individuals that have worked for years laundering vast amounts of money for the Hamas terrorist organization.

“Today I signed an order that will impose international sanctions on Hamas’ investment system, whose scope of activity is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweeted.

The sanctions include the seizure of assets, blocking bank accounts, and other measures.

He credited the move to a cooperative investigation by the Shabak, the National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing (NBCTF) in the Ministry of Defense, and the IDF’s Intelligence Directorate.

Chief among those designated is Osama Ali, a member of Hamas’ ruling Shura Council who has headed the organization’s investment arm for the last five years. He oversees a secret portfolio of shell companies operating on behalf of Hamas in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkey, and the UAE.

A statement from the Defense Ministry clarified that the authorities and banks in those countries did not know that the businesses, which mainly deal in real estate and infrastructure projects, are controlled by the violent group that has ruled the Gaza Strip with an iron hand since 2007.

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“Our policy is clear,” said Gantz. “We will continue to support the flow of money that goes to civilians (in Gaza) — and we will continue to thwart any attempt to send money that goes to strengthen the military capabilities of the Hamas terrorist organization.”

These are not the first sanctions to be placed on top Hamas members helping to finance its malign activities. The statement noted that Israel is now joining the U.S., which started the crackdown in May.

That month, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the Treasury Department designated four Hamas leaders, including Ali, as well as others, for maintaining this secret portfolio that it said is worth some $500 million.

“Hamas has generated vast sums of revenue through its secret investment portfolio while destabilizing Gaza, which is facing harsh living and economic conditions,” said Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes Elizabeth Rosenberg. She announced the move in a visit to Israel when she held discussions with top officials on countering terror-financing.

“Hamas maintains a violent agenda that harms both Israelis and Palestinians,” Rosenberg added. “The United States is committed to denying Hamas the ability to generate and move funds and to holding Hamas accountable for its role in promoting and carrying out violence in the region.”

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Those designated by OFAC have their financial holdings blocked by the U.S. government.