Lebanese man indicted in U.S. for drug trafficking to finance Hizbullah

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — The United States has identified a Lebanese man as a
leading drug dealer for the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah.

A U.S. federal court has indicted Ayman Joumaa of conspiracy to
distribute cocaine as well as launder money. Prosecutors said Joumaa, who
is not in U.S. custody, is believed to have financed Hizbullah through drug
operations in Central and South America.

The Treasury Department designated Ayman Joumaa, presently at large, a drug trafficker and said Hizbullah profited from his network.

“Money fuels the drug trade, and Mr. Joumaa is alleged to be at the center of it all — working with those producing the vast majority of the world’s cocaine to get their drugs safely into the hands of Mexican cartels, and then moving hundreds of millions in proceeds all around the world so the money can’t be traced back to them in Colombia,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said.

In January, the Treasury Department designated Joumaa a “Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker.” Officials said Joumaa, a Sunni Muslim who owns a major hotel in Beirut, was linked to Hizbullah operations in southern Lebanon and laundered money through local banks, particularly the
Lebanese-Canadian Bank.

The indictment linked Joumaa, 47, to Mexico’s Les Zetas drug cartel for
the shipment of cocaine to the United States. Joumaa, indicted by a federal
grand jury on Nov. 23, has been accused of laundering hundreds of millions
of dollars in drug proceeds from Mexico, Europe and West Africa to cocaine
suppliers in Colombia and Venezuela.

Officials said Joumaa was used by Hizbullah in its effort to reduce
dependency on Iran. They said Teheran, beset by sanctions, has reduced its
annual $200 million stipend to Hizbullah.

“Joumaa allegedly charged a fee between eight and 14 percent for
laundering the proceeds, which took one to five days to complete before
payment was made to the drug suppliers,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Va.

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