Shariah Finance Watch: US Treasury Dept.- South America Drugs & Hezbollah

On June 30, 2012 · In Colombia, Drug trafficking, Hezbollah, Jihad, Jihadist Groups/Individuals, LATIN AMERICA, Lebanon, Money Laundering, Terror Funding, Venezuela

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated four individuals and three entities involved in laundering the proceeds of narcotics trafficking for drug kingpin Ayman Joumaa. Treasury also designated a Colombia-based individual under its terrorism authority, Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, for directing Hezbollah’s fundraising activities in the Americas. This individual was previously designated under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act) for his role in narcotics-related money laundering. Today’s designations further expose Ayman Joumaa’s network as a major narcotics and money laundering enterprise that has reach throughout the Americas and the Middle East with links to Hezbollah. As with the February 2011 action against Lebanese Canadian Bank, these actions again highlight Hezbollah’s links to major South American narcotics money laundering organizations.

“The Joumaa network is a sophisticated multi-national money laundering ring, which launders the proceeds of drug trafficking for the benefit of criminals and the terrorist group Hezbollah,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. “We and our partners will continue to aggressively map, expose and disable this network, as we are doing with today’s sanctions.”

Abbas Hussein Harb and Ibrahim Chibli

Abbas Hussein Harb and Ibrahim Chibli are being designated today pursuant to the Kingpin Act for collaboration with designated drug kingpin Ayman Joumaa in the movement of millions of dollars of narcotics-related proceeds. Harb’s Colombia- and Venezuela-based organization launders money for the Joumaa network through the Lebanese financial sector. Chibli used his position as the manager of the Abbassieh branch of Fenicia Bank in Lebanon to facilitate the movement of money for Joumaa and Harb. For example, in 2010, Joumaa moved over a million dollars into an account owned by Harb and managed by Chibli. Harb is a dual citizen of Venezuela and Lebanon, and Chibli is a Lebanese national.

Ali Mohamad Saleh

Ali Mohamad Saleh, a Lebanese Colombian national, is also being designated today pursuant to E.O. 13224 as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for acting for or on behalf of and providing financial, material, or technological support to Hezbollah. Saleh is a key Hezbollah facilitator who has directed and coordinated Hezbollah activity in Colombia. He is a former Hezbollah fighter with knowledge of Hezbollah operations plans due to his contact with Hezbollah authorities in Lebanon. As of July 2010, Saleh was a contact of Hezbollah’s Foreign Relations Department and has maintained communication with suspected Hezbollah operatives in Venezuela, Germany, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. Saleh was the acting leader of a Hezbollah support cell in Maicao, Colombia that raised funds for transfer to Hezbollah. In this role, Saleh solicited donations for Hezbollah from business owners and residents. Saleh coordinated the transfer of checks and U.S. dollars by courier from Maicao via Venezuela to Hezbollah in Lebanon. He was previously designated under the Kingpin Act on December 29, 2011, for his role as a Maicao based money launderer for the Cheaitelly/El Khansa criminal organization, which is linked to the Joumaa network. Saleh is the brother of Joumaa-network associate Kassem Mohamad Saleh, who was also named today under the Kingpin Act for his role in supporting Abbas Hussein Harb.

Additional Kingpin Designations

Ali Houssein Harb (Abbas Hussein Harb’s brother) and Kassem Mohamad Saleh (Ali Mohamad Saleh’s brother) were also designated under the Kingpin Act today for their links to the Joumaa network. Ali Houssein Harb and Kassem Mohamad Saleh are dual citizens of Lebanon and Venezuela. The three companies targeted as part of today’s action under the Kingpin Act for being owned or controlled by Abbas Houssein Harb and/or Kassem Mohamad Saleh are: Importadora Silvania and Bodega Michigan, both based in Colombia, and Importadora Silvania, C.A., based in Venezuela.

BACKGROUND:

Ayman Joumaa was designated pursuant to the Kingpin Act in January 2011 for his role as a high-level money launderer and drug trafficker operating in the Americas, Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Joumaa and his organization laundered proceeds from their illicit activities – as much as $200 million per month – through various channels, including bulk cash smuggling operations and Lebanese exchange houses. Since Treasury’s designation, he was subsequently indicted in November 2011 by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia for being the leader of an international drug trafficking and money laundering network that coordinated multi-ton shipments of cocaine from Colombia to the Los Zetas Mexican drug cartel destined for the United States and for laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in these drug proceeds back to the Colombian suppliers.

Today’s actions, which prohibit U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with the designated individuals and entities and freeze any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction, were taken in close coordination with the Drug Enforcement Administration. “The DEA investigation of Ayman Joumaa that helped lead to today’s Treasury actions is critical to protecting the U.S. financial system from illicit activity and is another tool used to disrupt and dismantle these drug and money laundering networks,” said DEA Financial Operations Chief John Arvanitis. “These sanctions will go a long way toward ensuring that the entire Joumaa network is brought to justice.”

This action is part of the Treasury Department’s ongoing efforts pursuant to the Kingpin Act to target the financial networks of significant foreign narcotics traffickers and their organizations worldwide. The Treasury Department has designated more than 1,100 individuals and entities linked to drug kingpins since June 2000. Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1.075 million per violation to more severe criminal penalties. Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $5 million. Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million. Other individuals face up to 10 years in prison and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act.

Today’s action also highlights the Treasury Department’s ongoing efforts to target terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or to acts of terrorism, isolating them from the U.S. financial and commercial systems. Hezbollah was listed as a Specially Designated Terrorist on the annex to E.O. 12947 of January 23, 1995. The U.S. Department of State designated Hezbollah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997. Additionally, on October 31, 2001, Hezbollah was designated by the State Department as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to E.O. 13224.

Source: http://www.shariahfinancewatch.org/blog/2012/06/30/us-treasury-department-links- major-drug-trafficker-ayman-joumaa-to-key-hezbollah-supporter-in-south-america/

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