The U.S. has identified two Lebanese exchange houses, Kassem Rmeiti and Company and the Halawi Exchange, as being involved in money laundering.
The United States has identified two Lebanese exchange houses, Kassem Rmeiti and Company and the Halawi Exchange, as being involved in money laundering -- that is, for moving funds from illicit activities like drug trafficking through U.S. financial institutions -- in support of the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah.
David Cohen, U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and financial Intelligence, briefed reporters on the move at the State Department’s Foreign Press Center in Washington:
”We have taken this action today to protect the U.S. financial system from the illicit proceeds flowing through Rmeiti Exchange and the Halawi Exchange, to disrupt their activities and to deprive the international narcotics traffickers of key access points into the financial system.”
The formal designation of the two Lebanese institutions under Section 311 of the USA Patriot Act also exposes important links between them and Hezbollah, Mr. Cohen said:
“Hezbollah has long sought access to the international financial system in order to move its terrorist funds and to launder the profits from its involvement in illegal activity. Make no mistake, Hezbollah is both a full-fledged terrorist organization, lavishly funded over the years by Iran, and an enterprise that increasingly turns to crime to finance itself as the economic pressure on Iran mounts and Iran’s financial situation becomes more tenuous."
Treasury Under Secretary Cohen pointed out that “the Lebanese financial sector is an integral part of the Lebanese economy, and today’s actions are an not an indictment of the Lebanese financial sector as a whole, but rather expose those actors who abuse it.
“Treasury maintains an ongoing and active dialogue with Lebanese authorities and with the Lebanese banking sector itself to underscore the importance of vigilance with respect to narco money laundering and other illicit financial activity,” said Mr. Cohen. “We are working closely with the Lebanese regulators and private financial institutions to help address the concerns highlighted in today’s action.”