The U.S. Treasury Department named four Lebanese men, one of whom also has Colombian citizenship, as drug kingpins and terrorists for allegedly laundering money in a South American scheme that was suspected of funding Muslim political party and militant group, Hezbollah.
Ali Mohamad Saleh, who holds Lebanese and Colombian citizenship, was designated a “global terrorist” by the U.S. for reportedly coordinating a Hezbollah support cell in northern Colombia. Saleh’s inclusion on the list means his U.S. assets will be frozen and he is prohibited from doing business with American citizens.
According to the U.S. Treasury, he “solicited donations for Hezbollah from business owners and residents” to help support Lebanese drug lord Ayman Joumaa, who was indicted by a U.S. court in 2011.
“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,” read a U.S. Treasury Department release.
He was previously named a drug kingpin in 2001 under the U.S. Kingpin Act, which similarly prohibits designees from conducting business with Americans.
Abbas Hussein Harb and Ibrahim Chibli were also designated “drug kingpins” under the U.S. Kingpin Act, for allegedly laundering money for Joomaa’s drug trafficking network. Harb is suspected of using the Venezuelan and Colombian-based organization to launder drug money, while Chibli allegedly used his position as the manager of a Lebanese bank to transfer funds for the group.
“The Joumaa network is a sophisticated multinational money laundering ring, which launders the proceeds of drug trafficking for the benefit of criminals and the terrorist group Hezbollah,” said David S. Cohen, the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Joumaa was designated a kingpin as well for allegedly trafficking drugs in South America, the Middle East, Europe and Africa in addition to laundering as much as $200 million per month through cash smuggling and money laundering operations. He was accused of shipping around 85,000kg of cocaine into the U.S.
Jailed drug kingpin Walid Makled of Syrian descent said in 2011 that he had knowledge regarding Hezbollah’s operations in Venezuela.
In a television interview from a Bogota prison, Makled said he would only speak about the militant group’s affairs in South America to a U.S. prosecutor. “From what I understand, [Hezbollah] works in Venezuela. They make money and all of that money they send to the Middle East,” he claimed.
Five countries, including the U.S., have declared Hezbollah or its various factions to be a terrorist organization.