A scheme involving buying and selling used cars in the United States was used by Lebanese Canadian Bank and two Lebanese exchange houses to launder more than $480 million for the Hezbollah terrorist group.
The announcement was made by the U.S. in a civil complaint today. Federal prosecutors filed a lawsuit in Manhattan claiming the defendants, including exchange houses Hassan Ayash Exchange and Ellissa Holding used money from Lebanon to buy used cars in the United States and sell them in West Africa.
According to the complaint, money from the car sales and from drug trafficking was then transferred through Hezbollah’s money laundering channels back to Lebanon. “The intricate scheme laid out in today’s complaint reveals the deviously creative ways that terrorist organizations are funding themselves and moving their money, and it puts into stark relief the nexus between narcotics trafficking and terrorism,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.
Back in February, the U.S. Treasury Department said Lebanese Canadian Bank was a “financial institution of primary money laundering concern.” Subsequently, U.S. financial institutions cut their ties to the bank, making it impossible for it to send money to the United States. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton labeled Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.