Feds Seize $150M From Hezbollah-Linked Bank

     MANHATTAN (CN) – The United States said it seized $150 million from a Lebanese bank accused of laundering money for Hezbollah.
     The funds were held in accounts at the Bank of New York Mellon, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Deutsche Bank Trust Co. Americas and Standard Chartered Bank as part of a money-laundering scheme linked to the Islamic terrorist group, according to an affidavit supporting the government’s application for seizure warrants.
     The Lebanese Canadian Bank transferred money to the United States to buy used cars, which were then shipped to West Africa and sold for cash, according to the previously sealed affidavit. Profits from those car sales, drug-trafficking operations and other crimes were then allegedly smuggled back to Lebanon.
     The affidavit states that Hezbollah members and supporters “are involved at various points in the money laundering scheme.”
     Last February, the U.S. Treasury designated the Lebanese Canadian Bank as a Primary Money Laundering Concern, and the department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) proposed sanctions barring U.S. banks from opening or maintaining pass-through accounts with the Lebanese bank.
     FinCEN said it believed the bank had been routinely used by drug traffickers and money launderers in Central and South America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, according to the unsealed affidavit.
     Between January 2007 and early 2011, about $248 million was transferred from overseas accounts at Lebanese banks and exchange houses to bank accounts in the United States, prosecutors said in a federal complaint filed last December.
     According to the affidavit, the Lebanese bank “had poor anti-money laundering controls and, indeed, knowingly conducted business with Hizballah-controlled entities and individuals and entities linked to, among other things, African diamond smuggling, money laundering, and narcotics trafficking.”
     The Lebanese Canadian Bank is among Lebanon’s 10 largest banks with 35 domestic branches, an office in Montreal, Canada and more than $5 billion in assets.
     U.S. authorities said they seized “up to $150 million” held in the U.S. bank accounts in the name of Banque Libano Francaise.

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