The head of the Middle East Africa Bank (MEAB) in Lebanon has stepped down and handed over the reigns to his son, after the US Treasury charged him with direct links to the Iran-proxy Shi'ite terrorist organization Hezbollah.
The Lebanese The Daily Star reports Thursday that Kassem Hejeij's resignation was announced in a memo by the bank, in which MEAB financial market head Amal Saleh said Hejeij had handed over power to Ali Hejeij.
"From now on, Kassem Hejeij has no more relations with the bank or ownership," the memo claimed.
The US Treasury has accused three Shi'ite businessmen and investors, including Hejeij, of being directly tied to Hezbollah. The group is on the US's official terrorist organization list.
MEAB's memo stated that the bank will comply with measures against money laundering and terrorism financing, including those of the US Federal Reserve, and claimed the institution has no relations with prohibited organizations in a clear reference to Hezbollah.
The US Treasury did not mark the bank for sanctions, although some bankers estimate Hejeij would have been forced to sell the bank eventually – some reason his son's appointment will not change that outcome.
However, chances of selling the bank seem slim, as one of Hejeij's lawyers told The Daily Star, "so far we did not receive any offer to buy the bank but the management will consider any offer if the price is right."
Speaking about the US posture in Lebanon, a local Shi'ite banker told the paper, "it seems that Washington wants to tighten the financial noose on Hezbollah and monitor every transaction the party may make through any bank or financial institution."
The banker revealed Iran is still providing most of the funds for the terrorist group, although it also gets large donations from other sources that he did not elaborate on.