Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has announced sanctions against two Syrian money service businesses, Al-Fadel Exchange and Al-Adham Exchange Company, for their covert aid to the Bashar al-Assad regime and its Hizballah and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) allies. These companies have facilitated the regime's access to the international financial system, bypassing international sanctions.
This action also extends to the three brothers who own and operate Al-Fadel Exchange – Fadel Ma’ruf Balwi, Mut’i Ma’ruf Balwi, and Muhammad Ma’ruf Balwi. The actions are a result of violations to Executive Order (E.O.) 13582 and the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act of 2019, demonstrating the threat posed by financial entities that support oppressive regimes.
“Bashar al-Assad’s regime continues to violate sanctions while ignoring the needs of the Syrian people,” stated Brian E. Nelson, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. He emphasized the U.S.' commitment to push for reforms and hold accountable those enabling Assad's regime.
These measures follow OFAC’s March 28, 2023 designations, which targeted key individuals supporting the Assad regime via the production and export of the narcotic fenethylline, also known as Captagon.
Since 2021, both the Al-Fadel and Al-Adham exchanges have facilitated transfers totaling millions of dollars to the U.S.-designated Central Bank of Syria. These transactions directly benefitted the Syrian government and President Bashar al-Assad. Moreover, the Hizballah terrorist organization, a key ally of the Syrian regime and Iran’s IRGC-QF, utilized Al-Fadel Exchange for transferring money from neighboring countries to Syria.
In addition, as of mid-2021, Al-Fadel Exchange enabled payments from the Assad regime to the U.S.-designated Hizballah financial official, Muhammad Qasim al-Bazzal, for Iranian oil shipments.
In response to these violations, OFAC has imposed sanctions on Al-Fadel Exchange and the Balwi brothers under E.O. 13582 and the Caesar Act, which target those who knowingly provide substantial support to the Government of Syria.
Similarly, Al-Adham Exchange Company, also headquartered in Damascus, has been designated under E.O. 13582 and the Caesar Act. The company is known to have regularly moved money abroad for the Central Bank of Syria since late 2022.
The Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act of 2019, also known as the Caesar Act, is a U.S. law that imposes sanctions on the Syrian government, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, for war crimes against the Syrian population.
The Act is named after "Caesar", a pseudonym for a Syrian military photographer who defected and brought with him thousands of photographs documenting the torture, abuse, and execution of detainees by the Syrian government during the country's civil war.