Hezbollah associate pleads guilty to money laundering conspiracy in US

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

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


Saudi Arabia announces 10 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 10 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 10 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 10 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 387,020
  • A total of 6,801 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 10 deaths from COVID-19 and 964 new infections on Friday.
Of the new cases, 402 were recorded in Riyadh, 215 in Makkah, 157 in the the Eastern Province, 39 in Madinah, 36 in Asir, 19 in Tabuk, 18 in Hail, 15 in Jazan, 12 in the Northern Borders region, 10 in Najran and seven in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 387,020 after 918 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 6,801 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 6.7 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia to date.


Saudi Arabia must ‘confront power with power’ in Yemen, says expert

Saudi Arabia must ‘confront power with power’ in Yemen, says expert
Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi Arabia must ‘confront power with power’ in Yemen, says expert

Saudi Arabia must ‘confront power with power’ in Yemen, says expert
  • The Arab coalition destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthis toward Jazan on Thursday.

JEDDAH: The international community bears responsibility for prolonging the crisis in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia should not simply wait for the Iran-backed Houthis to cause a disaster, according to a Saudi expert in international relations.

Political analyst Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri said on Thursday that although a number of proposals had been put forward to put an end to Yemen’s ongoing conflict, there had been a lack of will from the international community to implement those initiatives.

“If the international community was honest, it would have (acted on) UNSC Resolution 2216, demanding the Houthis relinquish the arms they seized from military and security institutions and cease all violence. The international community is delaying taking action against the Houthis for its own interests,” Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“The international community’s regional interests are its top priority, not Yemen or the Yemenis,” he added.

Al-Shehri believes that, in the face of continued silence from the international community, Saudi Arabia should ‘confront power with power’ when dealing with Houthi attacks.

“We should not wait until the Houthis (cause) a disaster. We count on the Arab coalition and the Yemeni army, especially after the UN’s leniency with regard to putting pressure on the Houthis to accept diplomatic solutions,” Al-Shehri said.

He added that if attacks on the Kingdom continue, then Saudi Arabia should take military action. “The Houthis are using power and this power should be confronted with power. We have tried the international community for seven years, but unfortunately (nothing has been done).”

The Arab coalition destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthis toward Jazan, Al-Ekhbariya reported on Thursday.

Those attacks were the latest in a long line of hostile actions against the Kingdom by the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

Jazan University was one of the targets, as well as other civilian sites protected under international humanitarian law, coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, adding that such actions amount to war crimes. He also said that the attacks originated from Yemen’s Saadah governorate and were a “continuation of the Houthis’ systematic and intentional hostile attempts to target civilians.”

The Houthis, who took over the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in 2014, have been widely condemned for their actions against the Kingdom.


62 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

62 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches
Updated 16 April 2021

62 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

62 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

JEDDAH: Authorities in Jeddah have shut down 62 commercial outlets for breaching coronavirus disease (COVID-19) protocols.
Municipalities in the Kingdom have stepped up their efforts to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety measures designed to protect public health.
The municipality of Jeddah governorate carried out 4,219 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities and identified 166 violations for issues related to overcrowding and the failure to effectively use the Tawakkalna app.
Officials urged people to report any suspected breaches of COVID-19 regulations to the 940 call-center number.


Saudi students win four awards in European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad

Saudi students win four awards in European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad
Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi students win four awards in European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad

Saudi students win four awards in European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia ranked 16th of 55 countries in the European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad (EGMO), which ended on Thursday, rising 10 places from last year and winning four medals.
Each country involved in the competition is represented by a team of four female mathematicians of school age, This year’s EGMO was hosted by Georgia, but held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saudi Arabia was represented by four students who have all been members of programs run by the King Abdul Aziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba) and have received thousands of training hours and attended several training camps.
In the past, Saudi teams have won 20 medals at the EGMO. This year, Rafaa Qanash from Jeddah won a silver medal, while Lara Munqal from Jeddah, Joud Bahwini from Yanbu, and Fatima Al-Ghanam from Al-Ahsa all won bronze medals.
All four students have been members of Mawhiba’s Program for International Olympiads and have received thousands of training hours and attended several training camps.
Mawhiba works in partnership with the Ministry of Education to qualify Saudis to compete in scientific Olympiads. Over 1,300 hours of training are provided annually to prepare students to participate.
The EGMO — launched by the UK in 2012, when 19 countries participated — seeks to encourage female students to compete in mathematics tournaments and to increase female representation in international Olympiads. Currently, only 10 percent of participants in math-based Olympiads are female.


Want to visit Saudi Arabia for Umrah? Here are the procedures you need to know about

Want to visit Saudi Arabia for Umrah? Here are the procedures you need to know about
Updated 16 April 2021

Want to visit Saudi Arabia for Umrah? Here are the procedures you need to know about

Want to visit Saudi Arabia for Umrah? Here are the procedures you need to know about
  • Saudi Arabia reported 10 more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced the procedures for pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom to follow to perform the rituals.
Pilgrims need to go to a care center in Makkah six hours before performing Umrah to check the inoculation status according to the type of approved vaccines.
They will be handed their bracelet, which they must put on at the center. They will then be directed to the Al-Shubaikha gathering center. There, the pilgrims must present their bracelet to verify their data and their permit.
The ministry noted the need for the pilgrims to abide by the Umrah date and time period allocated to them.
The Kingdom began receiving pilgrims from abroad in mid-March, in accordance with requirements and controls set by the Ministry of Health as part of the precautionary measures set to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah had previously confirmed the launch of the two updated versions of the apps “Eatmarna” and “Tawakkalna,” in cooperation with the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence.
Through these apps, Saudis and expats can reserve Umrah and visit and prayer permits inside the Grand Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, with permits being displayed only on the Tawakkalna app.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah emphasized the need to adhere to the precautionary and preventive measures, and to reserve permits through the approved official platforms.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia reported 10 more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday. The death toll now stands at 6,791.
The Ministry of Health reported 985 new cases, meaning that 402,142 people have now contracted the disease, of which 9,249 remain active.
It said 463 of the new cases were in Riyadh, 164 in Makkah, 140 in the Eastern Province and 30 in Madinah. In addition, 661 patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total to 386,102 recoveries.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted more than 16 million PCR tests, with 45,843 carried out in the past 24 hours.
Saudi health clinics set up by the ministry as testing hubs or treatment centers have helped hundreds of thousands of people around the Kingdom since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Among those testing hubs are Taakad (make sure) centers and Tetamman (rest assured) clinics.
Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual, while the Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms, such as fever, loss of taste and smell and breathing difficulties.
Appointments to either services can also be made through the ministry’s Sehhaty app.
Saudis and expats in the Kingdom continue to receive their jabs of the coronavirus vaccine, with 6,607,384 people having been inoculated so far.