ABL to comply with any US-led sanctions
The Association of Banks in Lebanon said over the weekend it would comply with any sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury after two Lebanese money exchange houses were designated as a primary money-laundering concern.
“ABL members will continue to do due diligence on their customers, enforce all sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury, and will not do business with any person or entity included on the OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) or any international sanctions list,” a statement released by ABL said.
The U.S. Treasury Department accused in a statement last week Kassem Rmeiti & Co. and Halawi Exchange Co. of laundering millions of dollars of narcotics profits and funneling the money to Hezbollah.
The two trading firms were designated under Section 311 of the U.S. Patriot Act – the identification of foreign companies that may be laundering money and supporting terrorism.
The statement added that another notice, if adopted as a final ruling, would cut off the two exchange houses from the U.S. financial system.
The ABL, which has repeatedly denied holding any accounts for Hezbollah or its affiliates, reiterated its commitment to implement international compliance standards.
“Among its top priorities, the ABL provides training programs to help its member banks stay compliant with all international banking standards [including those of the U.S. Department of the Treasury], particularly as they relate to anti-money laundering, fighting terrorism financing, and the ongoing implementation of Lebanon’s Know-Your-Customer requirements.”
The two Lebanese currency exchange firms vehemently denied the allegations and told The Daily Star that they were considering legal action to clear their names.
The Treasury’s move is part of a multiyear probe that has exposed what the U.S. government says are tight links between South American drug traffickers and Hezbollah.
Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.
The U.S. government first took action against the network in 2011 by designating Lebanese Ayman Joumaa, a “drug kingpin,” and blacklisting the Lebanese Canadian Bank.
After the LCB was blacklisted, the Treasury Department claimed Joumaa moved the proceeds of his drugs trade through Kassem Rmeiti & Co. and Halawi Exchange Co.
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