WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday banned Americans from doing business with three Lebanese-Venezuelans and a Lebanese man it accused of helping to launder drug money to the benefit of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant group.
It also designated one Colombian-Lebanese man, Ali Mohamad Saleh, as a global terrorist for his involvement with Hezbollah fund-raising. The action freezes any assets Saleh may have in the United States and also bars Americans from doing business with him.
The Treasury Department identified the three men with dual Lebanese-Venezuelan citizenship as Abbas Hussein Harb, Ali Houssein Harb and Kassem Mohamad Saleh. The Lebanese citizen is Ibrahim Chibli.
The Treasury Department said the group of men involved with money laundering were linked to Lebanese drug kingpin Ayman Joumaa, who was indicted in December by a U.S. federal grand jury in Virginia on charges of aiding Mexican drug cartels.
In a statement, Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen described Joumaa’s network as “a sophisticated multi-national money laundering ring, which launders the proceeds of drug trafficking for the benefit of criminals and the terrorist group Hezbollah.”
Hezbollah is a Shi’ite Muslim political party and guerrilla group that remains powerful in Lebanon and receives funding from Iran. Hezbollah has supported long-time ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and is listed as a terrorist group by the United States.
The Treasury Department said Harb and Chibli conspired with others to help ship millions of dollars in narcotics and, using a Colombia- and Venezuela-based organization, laundered money through the Lebanese financial sector.
It said Americans were now banned from doing any business with the four men under the terms of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
(This story is corrected to clarify which individual accused of Hezbollah fundraising; clarifies nature of accusation in headline; corrected spelling of Chibli)
Reporting by Margaret Chadbourn; Editing by Timothy Ahmann, Will Dunham, Vicki Allen and David Brunnstrom