Friday, October 09, 2015

America Delivers Hellfire Missiles and Precision Munitions to the Lebanese Armed Forces

October 9, 2015
Ambassador David Hale visited Beirut Airbase this morning to inspect America's latest delivery of "Hellfire" missiles and artillery munitions to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).  The shipment provides the LAF with 50 "Hellfire" air-to-ground missiles and 560 artillery rounds, including some precision munitions.  This represents $8.6 million worth of U.S. security assistance to Lebanon and boosts the LAF's ability to secure Lebanon's borders against violent extremists. 
The "Hellfire" air-to-ground missiles are used on Cessna Caravan aircraft previously delivered to the LAF by the United States and allow the LAF to strike confirmed insurgent positions without exposing themselves to return fire.  The other artillery rounds include laser guided projectiles – the first munition of its kind in the LAF's arsenal – which will provide the LAF with a precision-strike capability at significant stand-off ranges.  
Today's munitions delivery demonstrates America's sustained commitment to ensure that the Lebanese Armed Forces has the support it needs to be the sole defender of Lebanese territory and its borders, and is answerable to the state and to the Lebanese people through the state.  This is a long term commitment.  Since 2004, America has provided over $1.3 billion dollars in security assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces, including both training and equipment.  

Ambassador Hale Inaugurates Tactical Training Facilities at ISF Academy

October 8, 2015
Today, Ambassador Hale celebrated the inauguration of a new tactical village and administrative and forensics building at the Internal Security Forces (ISF) Academy in Aramoun.  These facilities represent an investment of $10.2 million by the U.S. government in Lebanon's security services.  After unveiling the inaugural plaque alongside ISF Director Major General Basbous, the Ambassador toured the new facilities constructed with the support of the U.S. government.  He also observed training exercises in the tactical village, which were being run as part of the national leader protection course conducted with American support. 
The tactical training village gives the ISF its first local capacity to conduct practical exercises in a variety of mock urban settings and helps poise the ISF Academy as regional hub for international police tactical training.  Since 2008, the United States has provided over $150 million dollars to train and equip the ISF through the State Department's Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). 
Below are Ambassador Hale's remarks as delivered.
Good morning; it's a great pleasure and an honor for me to be here with you today ISF Director General Basbous and General Hajjar.   I am delighted to join you here today to mark another step forward in our partnership between America and Lebanon and between America and the ISF, and to celebrate the inauguration of the ISF Academy's tactical training facility and forensics building. 
Collaboration on this project between our two countries beganm as many of you know, over two years ago.  The facilities we are inaugurating today reflect America's enduring commitment to Lebanon, and our enduring commitment to regional security.  Since 2008, the United States has provided over $150 million dollars to train and equip the ISF through the State Department's Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.  The tactical training village and this forensics building represent a $10.2 million investment by the American people in Lebanon's security services. 
These are difficult times for Lebanon.  The spillover of terrorism and extremism from Syria, the presence of huge numbers of refugees in Lebanon, are serious challenges for Lebanon.  But America's commitment to the Lebanese people remains as strong as ever.  We will continue to do our part to support your core institutions, like the ISF, so they can uphold order and security, protect the rights of individuals, help defend Lebanon against extremist threats, and preserve our shared values and ways of life.
Today's inauguration is a demonstration of our continuing partnership and friendship.  It is our hope that this facility will help shape a new generation of Lebanese law enforcement professionals who will set high standards of performance.  I am certain that, under the vision and direction of General Hajjar, and with the continued strong leadership of General Basbous, this Academy will thrive and become a training hub for the region.
Thank you to all who worked to make this project a success. 
General Basbous, General Hajjar, I know these facilities are in very good hands.  ISF cadets and officers, I encourage you to make the most of these facilities and the excellent training you will receive here to become outstanding law enforcement leaders in your communities. 
It is my honor to join you all in celebrating today's inauguration.  Thank you.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Treasury Sanctions Maritime Network Tied To Joumaa Criminal Organization

Action Exposes Continued Activities of Lebanese-Colombian drug kingpin Ayman Joumaa

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated four Lebanese and two German nationals and 11 companies as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act).  These individuals provide support for narcotics trafficking and money laundering activities conducted by Lebanese-Colombian drug trafficker and money launderer Ayman Saied Joumaa, key Joumaa associate Hassan Ayash, and the Joumaa criminal organization, which has ties to Hizballah.  As a result of today's action, any assets these designated entities and individuals may have under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. 

"Merhi Ali Abou Merhi operates an extensive maritime shipping business that enables the Joumaa network's illicit money laundering activity and widespread narcotics trafficking," said John E. Smith, Acting Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control. "The Joumaa criminal network is a multi-national money laundering ring whose money laundering activities have benefited Hizballah.  Today's action demonstrates Treasury's commitment to disrupt this network's trade-based money laundering scheme and obstruct their access to the international financial system."

OFAC closely coordinated with the Drug Enforcement Administration and Customs and Border Protection to execute today's action.  

Today's action targets Lebanese national Merhi Ali Abou Merhi who owns and controls the Abou Merhi Group, a holding company in Lebanon that is also designated today.  Abou Merhi Group has multiple subsidiaries in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe including the following 10 designated companies: Abou-Merhi Lines SAL, a shipping line in Lebanon; Abou-Merhi Cruises (AMC) SAL, a travel agency in Lebanon; Le-Mall-Saida, a shopping mall in Lebanon; Queen Stations, a gas station in Lebanon; Orient Queen Homes, a real estate development in Lebanon; maritime shipping subsidiaries in Benin (Abou Merhi Cotonou), Nigeria (Abou Merhi Nigeria), and Germany (Abou Merhi Hamburg); Lebanon Center, a shopping mall in Jordan; and Abou Merhi Charity Institution in Lebanon. 

Merhi has business dealings with previously designated members of the Joumaa drug trafficking and money laundering organization.  The following three Lebanese and two German nationals, respectively, are designated for their management roles in Merhi's various companies:  Houeda Ahmad Nasreddine, also known as Houeida Abou Merhi; Ahmad El Bezri; Wajdi Youssef Nasr; Hana Merhi Abou Merhi; and Atef Merhi Abou Merhi.

Merhi's maritime vessels provide used vehicle transportation services to the Joumaa organization.  Merhi, Abou Merhi Group, and Abou Merhi Lines SAL currently own the five vessels identified today:  City of Antwerp, City of Lutece, City of Misurata, City of Tokyo, and Orient Queen II.

On January 26, 2011, OFAC designated the Joumaa drug trafficking and money laundering organization as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker pursuant to the Kingpin Act.  On November 3, 2011, Ayman Joumaa was indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia for coordinating the shipment of over 85,000 kilograms of cocaine and laundering in excess of $250 million in narcotics proceeds.  Ayman Joumaa remains a fugitive.

On February 10, 2011, the Department of the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network identified The Lebanese Canadian Bank SAL as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern pursuant to Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act for the bank's role in facilitating the money laundering activities of drug kingpin Ayman Joumaa and his Lebanon-based drug trafficking and money laundering network, as well as having links to Hizballah.

Since June 2000, more than 1,800 individuals and entities have been named pursuant to the Kingpin Act for their role in international narcotics trafficking.  Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1.075 million per violation to more severe criminal penalties.  Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $5 million.  Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million.  Other individuals could face up to 10 years in prison and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act.

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of State John Kerry at the International Support Group for Lebanon

New York, New York
September 30, 2015.
(Delivered by Ambassador Thomas A. Shannon, Jr.)

Thank you, Mr. Secretary General and Mr. Prime Minister, for chairing this third ministerial meeting of the International Support Group.  My government agrees – and agrees fully -- that Lebanon needs the international community's backing more urgently than ever; that is why we have come together today. 
The United States wants Lebanon to be stable, secure, sovereign, and free from foreign entanglements.  We are aware, however, that these goals are threatened by the ongoing bloodshed in Syria, the continued movement of refugees, and the pernicious presence of violent extremists.  Clearly, Lebanon needs the help of its international partners to confront these challenges.  
Such support can reinforce but cannot substitute for leadership within Lebanon.  The country's top officials and opinion leaders must also take decisive measures to strengthen their ability to weather the crisis at hand.
To survive the current turbulence, Lebanon's governing institutions must be effective and strong.  Sadly, that is not now the case.  Lebanon's presidency has been vacant for more than 16 months, paralyzing the country's political institutions at a critical moment.  
During these difficult times, Lebanon's citizens, leaders, and institutions absolutely must come together.  My government urges Lebanon's leaders of every faction to put aside their differences and to restore a functioning cabinet that will fulfill its responsibilities and meet the needs of the people.  In saying this, I am really echoing the words of Prime Minister Salam, who has been striving with great courage to achieve a political consensus and to move his country forward.  Now is the time for Lebanon to uphold its democratic principles, elect a president, and hold parliamentary elections.  There is no excuse for further delay.  
Meanwhile, we must do all we can to strengthen Lebanon's institutions, and most particularly, the Lebanese Armed Forces.  The army is the sole institution with the legitimacy and mandate to defend the country and its people.  It must have the equipment and training required to do that job.  
I am announcing today that the United States will double – to more than $150 million – the amount of  U.S. military assistance  we are providing to the Lebanese Armed Forcesthis year compared to last.  These funds will allow the Lebanese Armed Forces to buy munitions, improve close air support, sustain vehicles and aircraft, modernize airlift capacity, provide training to its soldiers, and add to the mobility of armored units. This is in addition to the $59 million in border security assistance that we announced in Beirut earlier this month.  Rest assured that the United States will continue its strong support of the Lebanese Armed Forces, and we urge other countries to contribute generously as well.  
My colleagues, one of the most visible and heart-wrenching effects of the Syrian conflict is the presence in Lebanon of the highest number of registered refugees per capita in the world – more than one million in a country of only four million.  The United States recognizes the immense strain this burden is placing on Lebanon's resources and its host communities and we will continue to help.  Ten days ago, President Obama announced that we will provide an additional $75.5 million in humanitarian assistance to Lebanon, bringing our total to more than $964 million since the conflict began.
As members of this Support Group well know, not all the obligations in the Baabda Declaration, and UN Security Council Resolutions 1701 and 1559 are being fulfilled.  The Baabda Declaration, now three years old, was a clear commitment by Lebanon's leaders to strengthen national institutions, resolve internal disputes, respect the rule of law, and avoid becoming entangled in the Syrian civil war.  The path set out in that Declaration remains the right one for Lebanon, but concerted actions are required to fulfill its promise.  Of greatest importance, Hizballah's intervention in Syria – which violates the Declaration and threatens to drag Lebanon into war against the will of its people – must cease.    
Ladies and gentlemen, Lebanon may be under enormous stress, but it remains an essential building block of a more stable Middle East.  During this period of prolonged crisis, it must have all the help that governments, the UN system, and humanitarian relief organizations can provide.  It must have the capacity to protect itself from subversion and terrorist attacks.  It must summon the internal will to make its political system function in accordance with the requirements of the constitution and the needs of the Lebanese people.  And to all these ends, it may count on the unwavering friendship and support of the United States.  Thank you.