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.