Accused Drug Kingpins Demand Due Process

     WASHINGTON (CN) — Demanding an explanation of why the United States thinks they’re drug kingpins, three Panamanians told a federal judge they deserve a way to challenge such designations.
     Abdul Waked and his son, Mohamed Abdo Waked Darwich, brought a lawsuit over the predicament Thursday, joined by Lucia Touzard.
     They want the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to produce its administrative record about their alleged involvement in the “Waked Money Laundering Organization,” which the United States calls a top global money-laundering empire for drug traffickers consisting of banking, real estate and retail businesses.
     OFAC did produce two evidentiary memoranda, but the trio says these heavily redacted materials fail to disclose anything related to the allegations and charges against them.
     “The heavily redacted record provided by Defendants is legally deficient,” the 11-page complaint states. “It fails to provide plaintiffs with adequate and fair notice of the facts or basis of their designations.”
     Waked, his son and Touzard are alleging violations of their due-process rights.
     “In short, what has been presented as the basis for the designations is a ‘black box,’ kept secret even from the accused,” the complaint states. “Defendants’ ‘disclosure’ to Plaintiffs mocks any concept of due process and fair notice and precludes a meaningful right to administrative reconsideration and delisting.”
     The Wakeds and Touzard were swept up in a coordinated operation in May. The U.S. Treasury Department froze U.S. assets owned by 68 Panamanian and Colombian companies, including the Waked family’s holding company, Grupo Wisa. Touzard served as a corporate lawyer for the company.
     Prosecutors accuse the father-and-son company of laundering drug profits through a web of companies including a luxury mall, a bank and the duty-free zone at Panama City’s international airport.
     In their complaint, however, the men deny any role in laundering drug money. They say Grupo Wisa has internal and external audits and government reporting programs that minimize the risk of third-party abuse of the multi-national enterprise.
     In addition to OFAC, the lawsuit takes aim at the agency’s acting director, John Smith.
     “Nothing in Defendants’ May 5 Press Release, the Embassy’s May 13 & May 30 public comments, or, indeed, the designations published in the Federal Register describe the time, place, manner or source of the allegation that Plaintiffs—or one of their 5000 employees in more than 200 retail or wholesale outlets—have somewhere, somehow, someway engaged in sanctionable conduct,” the complaint states.
     “The designations are at war with those facts and Plaintiffs seek meaningful access to Defendants’ administrative record to demonstrate that their designations are wrong,” it continues.
     Without meaningful access to the administrative record, the Panamanians say they cannot adequately challenge their designation, or effectively petition for reconsideration.
     The allegations have also been damning, they claim.
     “Lines of credit have been withdrawn,” the complaint states. “Distribution contracts have been suspended. Loans have been called. Stores have been shuttered. Health insurance for employees cancelled. And, thus far, more than 3,000 employees have lost their jobs. Without meaningful and prompt access to the administrative record, the remaining 2,000 jobs are in jeopardy.”
     Peter Kahn, an attorney for the Panamanians with Washington-based Williams & Connolly, has not returned an email seeking comment.
     The Treasury Department refused to comment.

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