U.S. Seizes $150 Million in Alleged Hezbollah-Linked Cash

August 21, 2012

The Wall Street Journal on August 20, 2012 released the following:

“By Samuel Rubenfeld

U.S. officials said Monday they seized $150 million connected to a scheme in which entities linked to Hezbollah allegedly used the U.S. financial system to launder money through West Africa and back to the group’s base of Lebanon.

The seizure stems from a civil lawsuit filed last year by federal prosecutors in Manhattan against defunct Lebanese Canadian Bank, or LCB, and two Lebanese exchange houses seeking more than $480 million in funds allegedly derived from drug trafficking and other criminal activity passing through the U.S. financial system.

The seizure was reported by The Wall Street Journal, and there’s more here.

Hezbollah is a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. The group’s leadership has denied engaging in money laundering to finance its activity.

Prosecutors said Monday they seized $150 million from a New York correspondent account of Lebanon’s Banque Libano Francaise SAL, or BLF. Société Générale de Banque au Liban, which bought LCB in September 2011 for $580 million, paid for part of the transaction through BLF. The seized funds are substitutes for the money in the LCB account in escrow at BLF, prosecutors said.

The warrants to seize the funds were issued August 15, but made public Monday. Neither BLF nor Société Générale de Banque au Liban were accused of wrongdoing, prosecutors said.

“Money is the lifeblood of terrorist and narcotics organizations, and while banks which launder money for terrorists and narco-traffickers may be located abroad, today’s announcement demonstrates that those banks and their assets are not beyond our reach,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement.

A lawyer for LCB declined to comment to the Journal.

The U.S. Treasury Department designated LCB as a “primary money-laundering concern” under the Patriot Act in February 2011, accusing it at the time of facilitating money laundering by a network of drug traffickers spanning South America, Europe, the Middle East and West Africa.

Société Générale de Banque au Liban acquired LCB’s assets and liabilities following the Treasury’s finding.

According to the civil complaint filed last year, the alleged scheme involved cash sent from Lebanon to the U.S. between January 2007 and early 2011 to buy used cars that were later sold in West Africa for cash.

The money from from the car sales was then allegedly transferred back to Lebanon with proceeds from narcotics trafficking and other crimes, prosecutors said in the complaint.

Correction: The seized funds came from the New York correspondent account of Lebanon’s Banque Libano Francaise SAL, not from a U.S. account at Société Générale de Banque au Liban.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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White House expands reach of sanctions on Syria, Iran

May 1, 2012

Miami Herald on May 1, 2012 released the following:

“BY KEVIN G. HALL
MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Tuesday granted the Treasury Department authority to blacklist foreign nationals and companies that help Iran and Syria evade U.S. and international sanctions.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order and notified congressional leaders that he had given Treasury expanded powers to thwart the evasion of U.S. sanctions. These powers give the accused little chance of seeing the evidence against them, but they don’t run afoul of constitutional due-process rights since they apply to foreign entities.

“I have determined that efforts by foreign persons to engage in activities intended to evade U.S. economic and financial sanctions with respect to Iran and Syria undermine our efforts,” the president said in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The administration hopes that the ever-tightening financial sanctions will force Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions and the Syrian government to end its oppression of rebels who seek to oust it.

The new executive order allows Treasury to prohibit accused foreign nationals or companies from traveling to the United States and permits the agency to forbid U.S. companies to deal with them.

Treasury and its Office of Foreign Assets Control already have similar powers to lock companies or individuals out of the U.S. banking system, thus effectively shutting them out of the global system. Tuesday’s action was aimed at smaller companies that are helping Iran and Syria skirt the sanctions.

“Both countries are seeking to use non-bank financial institutions,” said a senior Treasury official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely. The official cited currency exchange houses or trading firms that don’t have a U.S. presence and fly under the radar in assisting Iran and Syria.

The agency didn’t sanction anyone with the announcement Tuesday.

“That will come in due course,” the official said. He added that foreign companies that are abetting Syria and Iran are “put on clear notice that the United States government has a new tool at its disposal to disrupt that activity.”

The official described the new measure as “more nimble and agile.” He said it targeted entities that were “in the cracks out there, where they are not engaged in behavior that would rise to the level of a (prior) designation, but are not readily susceptible to an enforcement action … because they have no U.S. presence.”

Tuesday’s announcement followed months of increasing financial pressure on Iran, including a move in March by the European Union to prevent dozens of Iranian banks from accessing the international system through which banks transfer money electronically. Treasury also has sanctioned most of the leaders of the Iranian banking, shipping and military sectors, as well as most of the family members of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and his political allies.

For those accused under the new executive order, there won’t be the sorts of due process protections that U.S. citizens or companies are afforded. Treasury officials will share only unclassified information with the accused, meaning they will often be unable to see the information that’s leading to their accusal.

As with the financial provisions of the controversial Patriot Act, the accused can challenge under the Administrative Procedure Act, which covers not the content of the allegation but rather the process. A federal judge, however, would have access to the classified portions of the case should the accused seek legal redress.

“There is certainly a lot of room for abuse,” said Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian research center in Washington.

Foreign entities, he said, have fewer rights under the U.S. Constitution, and there’s little chance that the accused will sway courts to force the U.S. government to share details.

“The way the modern courts interpret administration law, they give a wide berth to government agencies. … This seems to be more an issue of policy than constitutional,” Shapiro said.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
OFAC SDN Removal Videos:

OFAC Litigation – SDN List Removal

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OFAC SDN Removal Attorneys

————————————————————–

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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International criminal questions, but want to be anonymous?

Free Skype Tel: +1.202.470.3427, OR

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Enforcing existing sanctions on Iran

November 6, 2011

The Washington Times on November 4, 2011 released the following:

By Avi Jorisch -The Washington Times

“U.S. empowered to crack down on business with regime’s central bank

In recent years, the United States has imposed a punishing sanctions regime on Iran’s banking sector. To further increase Tehran’s level of financial pain, a great number of congressional and advocacy groups have repeatedly called on the White House to blacklist the Central Bank of Iran (CBI). Doing so, the thinking goes, would seriously hamper the Islamic republic’s ability to abuse international markets in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Yet unbeknownst to most lawmakers and Washington policymakers, the U.S. Treasury actually hasblacklisted the CBI, and not once, but twice in recent years. The real question is why the U.S. government has not enforced its own sanctions regime.

The CBI has been accused of helping fund Iran’s nuclear weapons program, facilitate money transfers to terrorist organizations and proliferate weapons of mass destruction. The Treasury Department has publicly declared that between 2001 and 2006, the CBI facilitated a $50 million payment for Hezbollah. Treasury also has disclosed that the bank engaged in “deceptive practices,” including helping Iran’s Sepah and Melli banks, two financial institutions blacklisted by the United Nations, the European Union and United States for their role in facilitating illicit international transactions.

The United States maintains a number of “blacklists” sponsored by different agencies, including but not limited to the Departments of State, Treasury and Commerce. The Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list is a broad compilation of persons and entities – a “list of lists” – administered by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Those on the SDN list include not only persons and entities involved in terrorism, but also weapons proliferators, drug traffickers and those designated under country-specific sanctions programs.

Today, the SDN list has more than 6,000 entries, includingthe Central Bank of Iran. Unless specifically exempted, all U.S. persons and entities must block any property in which an SDN has an interest and report the action to OFAC. Blocked property may not be “transferred, withdrawn, exported, paid, or otherwise dealt in” without prior authorization from OFAC. If OFAC thinks a person or institution has violated the law, it has several options at its disposal, including cease-and-desist orders, civil penalties, suspension or revocation of licenses, and criminal charges.

The Treasury Department’s Web page clearly shows that the Central Bank of Iran appears on the SDN list of June 16, 2010, under the Iran country sanctions program. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network also took action against the CBI; in March 2008, it issued a banking advisory that fingered the bank for the “money laundering threat involving illicit Iranian activity.”

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner recently wrote to Congressthat “all options to increase the financial pressure on Iran are on the table, including the possibility of imposing additional sanctions against the CBI.” But the United States does not need new sanctions; it just needs to implement the existing regime, which could be a very potent tool for pursuing Iranian financial activity around the globe.

At this point, concerned parties should advocate a number of measures. The United States should ask banks that provide services of any kind to the Central Bank of Iran to cease doing so immediately. If they refuse to comply, the U.S. government should take immediate legal action in accordance with the PATRIOT Act and the U.S. Code, Title 18, Section 981, freezing any U.S.-based assets they hold and blocking their access to American markets.

Moving against the Central Bank would necessitate indirect action because the bank does not appear to possess assets in America. However, the U.S. government does have the power to freeze the funds deposited in a foreign bank on behalf of the Central Bank if the foreign bank maintains an account (known as an “interbank” or “correspondent account”) at a U.S. financial institution or has actual operations or property in the United States.

Washington should begin implementing the SDN as soon as possible. At a minimum, Treasury should designate one or a number of the biggest offenders among those engaging in business transactions with Iran’s Central Bank. This would likely cause many, if not most, of the companies and banks currently doing business with, or on behalf of, the Central Bank to cut their ties.

Policymakers in Washington are now keenly interested in imposing greater financial costs on the Iranian regime in an effort to derail its nuclear program. To do so, the need to target Iran’s Central Bank should be readily apparent. So, too, should the fact that levying real pressure on Iran’s most important economic construct is simply a matter of enacting already-existing restrictions and penalties. The Obama administration should do so without delay.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
OFAC SDN Removal Videos:

OFAC Litigation – SDN List Removal

OFAC SDN List Removal

OFAC SDN Removal Attorneys

————————————————————–

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.