Sunday, February 07, 2016

CDA Jones Meets with Defense Minister Mokbel

February 5, 2016

Media Notice 
For Immediate Release

Chargé d'Affaires ad interim Ambassador Richard H. Jones met on February 4, 2016 with Defense Minister Samir Mokbel as part of his meetings with various Ministries to reiterate the United States' commitment to a strong partnership with the Lebanese people.

Following is the statement Ambassador Jones gave after the meeting:


Good morning gentlemen.

I just had a very cordial meeting with Minister Mokbel. We reviewed the situation. I congratulated him on the success yesterday in Arsal. I think it shows that the Lebanese Armed Forces has come of age and is doing an excellent job protecting the people of Lebanon and defeating terrorists. I was particularly gratified to learn that there was no loss of life on the side of the Lebanese Army and I think that shows their professionalism. The United States is very pleased to be able to play a small role in helping prepare them through training and through equipment but really the congratulations are due to the Lebanese Armed Forces, the Minister, and the Army Commander, and especially the soldiers who conducted this successful operation. So we're very pleased by that.

We also talked about our cooperation; I assured the minister that it will continue and only grow stronger I think as the years go by and we're particularly looking at some of the requests that he and the Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces have made. And we're doing our best to expedite the delivery of those munitions and equipment.

I also would like to take this opportunity to express my condolences to the LAF and to the families of the sailors who so tragically lost their lives recently in the maritime accident. Our sympathies and our hearts are going out to the families of those victims. We're grateful of course that some of those sailors survived but we grieve for those who lost their lives. Thank you very much.

CDA Jones Meets with Interior Minister Machnouk

January 29, 2016
ChargĂ© d'Affaires ad interim Ambassador Richard H. Jones met today with Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk as part of his meetings with various Ministries to reiterate the United States' commitment to a strong partnership with the Lebanese people and ask about his ministry's plans for organizing the municipal elections.  The U.S. government looks forward to this renewal of democracy in May.
Following is the statement Ambassador Jones gave after the meeting:
Good afternoon everybody.
I just had a very nice meeting with the Minister of the Interior.  We discussed a wide variety of issues, including U.S.-Lebanese cooperation on police training.  The United States State Department alone has provided $160 million for the training of members of the ISF. We do this training in cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (the FBI) and we think it's been a very successful program that we're intending to continue for the foreseeable future.  The Minister asked for our assistance in elaborating plans for the future, for our assistance as well as for the future structure of the Internal Security Forces, and we will look at that request very seriously.
We also talked about plans and prospects for the municipal elections.  I'm very pleased the Minister informed me that everything is on schedule, that he's seeking a budget, which is a very important issue.  You can't have elections without spending money, and in order to have the elections they need a budget and I think it will be discussed at an upcoming Council of Ministers meeting.  I of course complimented him on the fact that the Council of Ministers is working again, because the functioning of government is a very important part of Lebanese democracy.  These elections are a very important part of Lebanese democracy. It's been six years, I think, almost since we've had an election in Lebanon of any kind, the last one being the municipal elections of 2010, May of 2010. So we are looking forward to seeing a renewal of Lebanon's democracy with the holding of the municipal elections this year.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

DEA and European Authorities Uncover Massive Hizballah Drug and Money Laundering Scheme

Contact: DEA Public Affairs
DEA and European Authorities Uncover Massive Hizballah Drug and Money Laundering Scheme

7 countries involved in disrupting drug money flow for terror regime

FEB 01 (WASHINGTON) - The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today announced significant enforcement activity including arrests targeting Lebanese Hizballah's External Security Organization Business Affairs Component (BAC), which is involved in international criminal activities such as drug trafficking and drug proceed money laundering. These proceeds are used to purchase weapons for Hizballah for its activities in Syria. This ongoing investigation spans the globe and involves numerous international law enforcement agencies in seven countries, and once again highlights the dangerous global nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism. 

This effort is part of DEA's Project Cassandra, which targets a global Hizballah network responsible for the movement of large quantities of cocaine in the United States and Europe. This global network, referred to by law enforcement as the Lebanese Hizballah External Security Organization Business Affairs Component (BAC), was founded by deceased Hizballah Senior Leader Imad Mughniyah and currently operates under the control of Abdallah Safieddine and recent U.S.-designated Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) Adham Tabaja. Members of the Hizballah BAC have established business relationships with South American drug cartels, such as La Oficina de Envigado, responsible for supplying large quantities of cocaine to the European and United States drug markets. Further, the Hizballah BAC continues to launder significant drug proceeds as part of a trade based money laundering scheme known as the Black Market Peso Exchange.

"These drug trafficking and money laundering schemes utilized by the Business Affairs Component provide a revenue and weapons stream for an international terrorist organization responsible for devastating terror attacks around the world," said DEA Acting Deputy Administrator Jack Riley.  "DEA and our international partners are relentless in our commitment to disrupt any attempt by terrorists and terrorist organizations to leverage the drug trade against our nations. DEA and our partners will continue to dismantle networks who exploit the nexus between drugs and terror using all available law enforcement mechanisms."

Beginning in February 2015, based on DEA investigative leads, European authorities initiated an operation targeting the network's criminal activities in that region. Since then, law enforcement authorities, closely supported by DEA, have uncovered an intricate network of money couriers who collect and transport millions of euros in drug proceeds from Europe to the Middle East. The currency is then paid in Colombia to drug traffickers using the Hawala disbursement system. A large portion of the drug proceeds was found to transit through Lebanon, and a significant percentage of these proceeds are benefitting terrorist organizations, namely Hizballah.

This investigation is a result of leads developed during the investigation into the Lebanese Canadian Bank.

The combination of aggressive international law enforcement investigations and Treasury's ongoing sanctions (see below) pressure shows the scope of the global commitment to diminish the ability of Hizballah and its financial supporters to move funds worldwide. 

Enforcement Action

With DEA and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) working closely with foreign counterparts in France, Germany, Italy and Belgium, authorities arrested top leaders of the European cell of this Lebanese Hizballah External Security Organization BAC last week. The most significant arrest was of the U.S.-designated SDGT Mohamad Noureddine, a Lebanese money launderer who has worked directly with Hizballah's financial apparatus to transfer Hizballah funds via his Lebanon-based company Trade Point International S.A.R.L. and maintained direct ties to Hizballah commercial and terrorist elements in both Lebanon and Iraq.

The CPB National Targeting Center partnered with DEA and international counterparts such as Europol in this investigation. CBP's continued cooperation with the DEA , and European law enforcement counterparts is a vital component in dismantling complex global drug trafficking and money laundering networks as well as enhancing the security of the United States border.

U.S. Treasury Sanctions

Separately, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced sanctions last week targeted Hizballah's financial support network by designating Hizballah-affiliated money launderers Noureddine and Hamdi Zaher El Dine, as well as Trade Point International S.A.R.L, a company owned or controlled by Noureddine, pursuant to Executive Order 13224. This order targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.  Noureddine and El Dine were designated for providing financial services to or in support of Hizballah, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.  Trade Point International S.A.R.L. was designated for being owned or controlled by Noureddine. As a result of Treasury's action, all assets of the designated individuals or entities that are located in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are frozen, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

As part of its designation, Adam J. Szubin, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, stated that, "Hizballah needs individuals like Mohamad Noureddine and Hamdi Zaher El Dine to launder criminal proceeds for use in terrorism and political destabilization.  We will continue to target this vulnerability, and expose and disrupt such enablers of terrorism wherever we find them."   

Participating offices and agencies:

DEA Philadelphia, DEA Miami, DEA Newark, DEA New York, DEA Special Operations Division, DEA Bilateral Investigative Unit, DEA country offices in Europe, as well as Bogota and Cartagena  
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN)
U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)