Hezbollah associate pleads guilty to money laundering conspiracy in US

The Brooklyn, New York, federal court, where the Hezbollah operative Joseph Asmar pleaded guilty. (Reuters)
Updated 29 May 2017

Hezbollah associate pleads guilty to money laundering conspiracy in US

JEDDAH: A Lebanese man, accused of trying to use his ties to Hezbollah as part of a scheme to launder drug money, pleaded guilty on Friday in a Brooklyn, New York, federal court to a US money laundering and conspiracy charge.
US prosecutors said Joseph Asmar, 43, of Beirut, entered his plea at a hearing before US District Judge Eric Vitaliano.
Asmar was arrested in Paris in October 2015, and was extradited to the US 14 months later. He also faced a money laundering charge.
Aaron Altman, a lawyer for Asmar, said in an e-mail: “Joseph Asmar has taken responsibility for his actions and is anxious to move forward with his life. More than anything, he misses his family and prays that they will be reunited in the near future.” Hezbollah is a Shiite militia that the US Department of State has designated a foreign terrorist organization. Human rights organizations have accused Hezbollah, along with Bashar Assad’s men, of carrying out crimes against humanity.
Asmar was charged following what prosecutors said was a two-year sting operation in which he and a Lebanese businesswoman, Iman Kobeissi, had meetings with an undercover US Drug Enforcement Administration agent posing as a trafficker.
Prosecutors said Asmar claimed to be an attorney who boasted that his connections in European and Middle Eastern banks enabled him to launder money, and that he could use his Hezbollah connections to provide security for drug shipments.
Undercover agents provided $400,000 in alleged drug proceeds to Asmar and his co-conspirators, who laundered the money in exchange for a commission, prosecutors said.
Asmar faces up to 20 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set. Kobeissi’s case is still pending.
The US federal court’s decison was welcomed by Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Riyadh-based Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar, who described it as a step in the right direction.”This is Hezbollah’s modus operandi,” he told Arab News from Riyadh on Sunday. “They have been using drug money to finance their terror operations.”
He claims that in Lebanon, Hezbollah cultivates hashish and then smuggles it into different countries in order to make money.
“They have factories in South America, in Colombia and Venezuela to process this stuff,” he said. Al-Shehri said Hezbollah operatives find it easy to procure passports in South America in order to facilitate their entry into the US and other countries where they launder drug money. “(Joseph Asmar’s conviction) proves what was known about Hezbollah terror operations,” he said.
He said since the South American countries have good ties with Iran, “they leverage those connections to their advantage in carrying out their dirty work.”He appealed to the international community, especially the US, to continue to follow Hezbollah’s money trail in order to stop their terrorist operations.
“We need to drain the swamp with a view to stopping their terrorist activities,” he said. “This case will hopefully lead to more exposes and reveal all cartels linked with Hezbollah.”

— With input from Reuters

GEA and Misk launch ‘Entertainment Pioneers’ program

Updated 26 June 2019

GEA and Misk launch ‘Entertainment Pioneers’ program

RIYADH: The General Authority for Entertainment (GEA) launched its “Entertainment Pioneers” program, in partnership with the Initiatives Center at the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation (Misk).

The program aims to prepare citizens, and especially fresh graduates, to work with the most renowned international companies in the field of entertainment, to gain experience, develop their skills in the field, and enable them to integrate this sector and contribute to its development and prosperity.

The program is part of GEA’s strategy to develop the sector of entertainment in accordance with the best international standards, and to provide it with qualified national competencies in this field, to meet the objectives of the Quality of Life program, a basic part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

The first stage of the program will kick off in collaboration with a leading American entertainment company that employs 44,000 people worldwide, and that has a record of more than 30,000 entertainment programs and 100 festivals, with its sales surpassing of 500 million tickets per year.

In addition, various international companies are participating in the event, in order to train Saudis in the tasks of planning, organization and management of entertainment programs and projects.

As part of its plans to develop and increase the size of local content in the entertainment sector, GEA is launching several other initiatives to train Saudi cadres develop their skills, and to integrate the job market especially in small and medium enterprises in the field of entertainment.

For registration a webpage was set on the link: https://misk.org.sa/fellowship/services/live-nation/