US slaps sanctions on Lebanese ‘money laundering’ group

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses supporters via a screen in Beirut, Lebanon, September 20, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 11 April 2019

US slaps sanctions on Lebanese ‘money laundering’ group

WASHINGTON: US officials on Thursday announced it has sanctioned a Lebanese network accused of laundering millions of dollars for “drug kingpins” and helping finance Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shiite movement that Washington labels a terrorist organization.
The US Treasury Department said it has added Lebanese national Kassem Chams to its blacklist, along with two related entities: the “Chams Money Laundering Organization” and Chams Exchange, a money service business in Lebanon.
“Kassem Chams and his international money laundering network move tens of millions of dollars a month in illicit narcotics proceeds on behalf of drug kingpins and facilitate money movements for Hezbollah,” Treasury said in a statement.

The Chams network moves money to and from multiple countries including Australia, Brazil, Colombia, France, Italy, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Spain, the United States and Venezuela, according to the department.
The sanctions are part of the administration’s “unprecedented campaign to prevent Hezbollah and its global terror affiliates from profiting off violence, corruption, and the drug trade,” Treasury under secretary Sigal Mandelker said.
The department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said Chams Exchange operates under license and supervision of the Central Bank of Lebanon (BdL) “despite US authorities long suspecting it” of significant money laundering.
Treasury said it remains committed to working with BdL “to eliminate access to the Lebanese financial system by narcotics traffickers, money launderers, and terrorist groups such as Hezbollah.”
President Donald Trump’s administration has accused Iran of taking provocative measures to destabilize the Middle East.
It has increased sanctions on the Islamic republic in order to undercut its revenues and to financially squeeze regional allies like the Lebanese Hezbollah.
Earlier this week Washington designated Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.


Lebanon says Israel sent drone over Hezbollah area

Updated 13 October 2019

Lebanon says Israel sent drone over Hezbollah area

BEIRUT: The Lebanese army on Sunday accused Israel of sending a reconnaissance drone at the weekend over Beirut's southern suburbs, a bastion of the Shiite militant Hezbollah group.
On August 25, two explosives-laden drones were sent to the same area. One of them exploded, sparking a dangerous escalation between Hezbollah and Israel.
On Saturday night, "one of the Israel enemy's reconnaissance drones violated Lebanese air space... overflew the southern suburbs and left," the army said in a statement.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah is represented in Lebanon's government and parliament but is considered a terrorist organisation by Israel and Washington, which has stepped up the financial pressure on the organisation.
The August incident heightened regional tensions, which culminated in a cross-border exchange of fire in early September.
Hezbollah vowed then that it would shoot down any Israeli drones violating Lebanon's air space.