Lebanese bank accused of terrorist ties hires Patton Boggs

A Lebanese bank accused of terrorist collusions has added another K Street firm to its roster, new documents show.

MEAB s.a.l., based out of Beirut, hired lobbying heavyweight Patton Boggs in June to work on “international banking issues,” the lobbying disclosure form says. 

Founded in 1993, the bank has been charged with laundering money to terrorist groups. MEAB s.a.l. actively lobbies the State Department, according to federal forms.

There are two lobbyists on the Patton Boggs account — Stephen McHale and Gassan Baloul. McHale served as the Treasury Department’s acting attorney general in 2001 and helps “clients navigate U.S. and international economic sanctions, representing their interests before the U.S. State Department and the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC),” according to the firm’s website.

Baloul has represented clients in the Middle East against allegations of violations of the Anti-Terrorism Act, the precursor to the PATRIOT Act, and money laundering violations, according to Patton Boggs's site.

In 2006, Israel put MEAB s.a.l., formerly known as the Middle East and Africa Bank, on its bombing target list for allegedly supporting Hezbollah, NBC reported at the time.

A producer for NBC’s investigative unit allegedly confirmed the link by calling the number from a fundraising spot that appeared on Arabic-language television and speaking to a member of Hezbollah.

In a statement to NBC, MEAB s.a.l. denied the charges, saying that although someone tried to open a “suspicious account” with the bank, no money changed hands and the bank employee involved was terminated.

Three years later, the bank signed up with BGR Group to lobby on “international banking issues,” forms indicate, and the bank has retained the firm since then.

Jeff Birnbaum,a president at the firm, said last year that the bank “takes great pride in operating with openness and integrity.”

“We carefully comply with all banking laws, both in Lebanon and internationally. We believe that full compliance will help us ensure secure and healthy growth,” Birnbaum said, adding that the bank is investing in training and technology to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing.

MEAB paid BGR $300,000 in 2012 for its services and just more than $600,000 overall since 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

-- This post was changed on July 9.