$150m funds with Hezbollah links seized

NEW YORK - US authorities on Monday announced the seizure of $150 million allegedly linked to a scheme by the Lebanese group Hezbollah to launder proceeds from drug trafficking and other crimes.

By (AFP)

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Published: Tue 21 Aug 2012, 9:35 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 2:00 PM

The money came from an American bank account used by the Beirut-based Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB) to conduct US currency transactions, US Attorney Preet Bharara and Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart said.

Washington considers the group a terrorist organisation and accuses Syria and Iran of providing its weaponry.

Monday’s seizure concerns a December 2011 money laundering and forfeiture complaint filed in US federal court in New York that targeted the bank and two other Lebanese financial institutions with alleged ties to Hezbollah.

“As we alleged last year, the Lebanese Canadian Bank played a key role in facilitating money laundering for Hezbollah controlled organisations across the globe,” Leonhart said in a statement. US prosecutors then alleged that the LCB, the Hassan Ayash Exchange Company and the Ellissa Holding Company wired funds from Lebanon to the United States to buy used cars, which were then sent to West Africa.

“Cash from the sale of the cars, along with proceeds of narcotics trafficking, were then funneled to Lebanon through Hezbollah-controlled money laundering channels,” the US Attorney’s office said at the time.

Hezbollah refuted the charges, saying they were “another attempt to tarnish the image of the resistance in Lebanon,” but US prosecutors said there was no doubt about the institutions’ ties to the militant outfit.

“Our relentless pursuit of global criminal networks showed that the US banking system was exploited to launder drug trafficking funds through West Africa and into Lebanon,” Leonhart said.

“DEA and our partners are attacking these groups and their financial infrastructure, while establishing clear links between drug trafficking proceeds and terrorist funding,” she added.

The United States earlier this month hit Hezbollah with sanctions as a penalty for supporting Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s regime.



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