U.S. Hits Alleged Lebanese Drugs Network Figures with Sanctions
The United States on Wednesday named five Colombia and Venezuela-based men as key players in a sprawling trafficking and money laundering network of alleged Hizbullah-linked Lebanese drug lord Ayman Joumaa.
The U.S. Treasury set sanctions on two Lebanese-born men, Abbas Hussein Harb and Ibrahim Chibli, for helping Joumaa launder what it said were millions of dollars of narcotics-related proceeds.
Harb led a network based in Colombia and Venezuela that moved the money through Lebanese banks; Chibli helped in his position as a branch manager of Lebanon's Finicia Bank to help the operation, the Treasury said.
Treasury named Lebanese-Colombian Ali Mohamad Saleh as a "key facilitator" for Hizbullah, raising money for the militant group in Latin America.
Two others, Harb's brother Ali Houssein Harb and Saleh's brother Qassem Mohamad Saleh were targeted with sanctions for running companies in Venezuela and Colombia that are linked to the Joumaa group.
The United States set its sights on the Joumaa network over the past two years after investigations showed the group has laundered as much as $200 million a month from mainly drug trafficking, according to the U.S. Treasury.
He was indicted in the United States last November for allegedly leading a network that helped ship tons of cocaine from Colombia via Mexico's Los Zetas cartel to the United States.
The group also laundered the proceeds from the drugs back to the Colombian suppliers, the Treasury said.
"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 Hizbullah," said Treasury under secretary David Cohen.
The sanctions, which forbid dealings with the individuals and their companies by U.S. citizens and firms, are aimed at blocking the Joumaa organization's access to business and financial networks, according to John Arvanitis of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
"These sanctions will go a long way toward ensuring that the entire Joumaa network is brought to justice," he said.