Alleging Hezbollah ties, Treasury levels sanctions against Lebanese exchange houses

Tuesday’s action follows February’s sanctions against the Lebanese Canadian Bank and alleged “drug kingpin” Ayman Joumaa under the Patriot Act.

The Rmeiti and Halawi exchanges stand accused of taking over Joumaa’s money laundering operation, using foreign money transmitter businesses to process millions of dollars on behalf of narcotics traffickers and other criminals, the Treasury Department said.

“Following Treasury’s action against the Lebanese Canadian Bank, the Joumaa narcotics network turned to Rmeiti Exchange and Halawi Exchange to handle its money laundering needs,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen.

The houses attempted to hide the source of the money by “co-mingling or splitting transactions across a variety of businesses, financial institutions, and continents, including in the United States,” the agency said.

All assets belonging to two houses in U.S. jurisdiction are to be frozen under the sanctions, which also prohibit any entity in the U.S. from doing business with the designated parties.

The sanctions against the exchange houses represent the first time the Patriot Act has been used to target a non-bank financial institution, according to the Treasury.