US refutes claims that Lebanese tycoon is cleared

Published March 9th, 2016 - 05:51 GMT
The National News Agency had reported that charges against Abou Merhi were dismissed as 'null in all forms'. (File photo)
The National News Agency had reported that charges against Abou Merhi were dismissed as 'null in all forms'. (File photo)

The U.S. Treasury Department denied Tuesday it had cleared Lebanese businessman Merhi Abou Merhi of allegations of money laundering and links to Hezbollah.

“Merhi Ali Abou Merhi, five others, and 11 companies were designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, on Oct. 1, 2015. They all remain designated,” read an email from the Treasury Department to The Daily Star.

“Claims that Mr. Merhi has been ‘found innocent of the claims by OFAC’ are inaccurate and there has been no action regarding Mr. Merhi that would change his status as a Specially Designated National and Blocked Person,” it continued.

The state-run National News Agency reported Monday that the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia issued a statement describing its “prolonged and extensive” investigation into Abou Merhi, his family and his business interests.

The statement, as quoted in Arabic by the NNA, dismissed the charges as “null in all forms.”

The statement as quoted by the NNA did not claim any action by OFAC or the Treasury Department, which are separate from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.“I doubt that the charges against Abou Merhi have been dropped by a U.S. court,” a Lebanese source familiar with U.S. sanctions told The Daily Star Tuesday. “The U.S. Treasury usually conducts a thorough investigation on persons and groups before levying any changes against them.”

Abou Merhi was blacklisted by OFAC in October along with three other Lebanese, two Germans and 11 companies for facilitating the activities and having ties to a maritime network tied to the “Joumaa Criminal Organization,” which has links with Hezbollah.

 

 

 

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