'Hezbollah laundered money through US used cars'

By REUTERS
December 16, 2011 02:11

US federal prosecutors accuse three banks with links to Hezbollah of laundering $240 million through used car market.

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US used cars

US used cars_311. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)

NEW YORK - Three Lebanese financial institutions linked to Hezbollah laundered over $240 million through the United States used car market, federal prosecutors accused on Thursday.

The civil forfeiture claim by US prosecutors in New York accused the Lebanese Canadian Bank and two money exchange companies of buying and shipping used cars from the United States to West Africa. There, the cars were sold and the cash smuggled into Lebanon by people acting as money couriers, often working for Hezbollah, court documents said.

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Washington considers Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, a terrorist group. US Drug Enforcement Administration officials say that the Lebanese group has become increasingly involved in the drug trade, facilitating the distribution and sale of cocaine in West Africa.

In February, the US Treasury department designated the Lebanese Canadian Bank as a "primary money laundering concern." The privately owned bank was subsequently merged with the Lebanese subsidiary of Societe Generale.

In February, Georges Zard Abou Jaoude, chairman and general manager of Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB) said, "To the best of our knowledge I can confirm that we have no clients related in any way to the crimes mentioned by the American Treasury."


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