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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Should Israel Get Some Credit?

Guest post by Challah Hu Akbar aka CHA

On January 26, 2011, Treasury designated Ayman Joumaa, as well as nine individuals and 19 entities as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers. According to Treasury, Joumaa’s network “used LCB [Lebanese Canadian Bank] to launder narcotics proceeds.” In addition, Treasury said that “Hizballah derived financial support from the criminal activities of Joumaa’s network.”

When Treasury designated the Lebanese Canadian Bank, on February 10, 2011, “as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern” it said that “Joumaa's organization uses, among other things, Hizballah couriers to transport and launder narcotics proceeds. Joumaa's organization pays fees to Hizballah to facilitate the transportation and laundering of narcotics proceeds.” According to Treasury, the investigation’s findings “exposes the terrorist organization Hizballah’s links to LCB and the international narcotics trafficking and money laundering network.”

The New York Times recently reported on the connection between the Lebanese Canadian Bank and Hezbollah and on December 15, a complaint was filed by the US government, which stated that “some of the funds move to LCB’s U.S. correspondent accounts via suspiciously structured electronic wire transfers to multiple U.S.-based used car dealerships—some of which are operated by individuals who have been separately identified in drug-related investigations.”

While much of the focus has since been on the 30 car dealerships reportedly tied to the Hezbollah scheme, one minor detail has been lost from the NY Times report.

For the United States, taking down the bank was part of a long-running strategy of deploying financial weapons to fight terrorism. This account of the serpentine, six-year inquiry and what has since been revealed is based on interviews with government, law enforcement and banking officials across three continents, as well as intelligence reports and police and corporate records.

So, what happened in February 2005six years prior to the LCB's designation?

Israeli National Security Council Counterterrorism Director General Danny Arditi met with Treasury U/S Stuart Levey and his delegation on February 14 in Ramat Hasharon, near Tel Aviv…During his briefing for the USDEL, Brigadier General  Danny Arditi was joined by his Deputy for International Coordination Amnon Zehavi, Advisor for Terrorism Finance Lt. Col. Udi Levi, Advisor for Intelligence Uzi Shaya, NSA Legal Advisor Roy Dick, Israeli Embassy officer Eynat Shlien, Advisor for Intelligence Lt. Col. Amon Prodik, and a military staffer.  Treasury U/S for Enforcement and Head of the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey was accompanied by Senior Advisor Adam Szubin, DAS Daniel Glaser, Senior Advisor Anne Wallwork, Public Affairs Specialist Molly Millerwise, IRS Senior Analyst Mark Weber, USSS Agent Jacqueline Marengo, USSS Agent Scott Salo, and Embassy notetaker.

Levi charged that at least two banks (the Lebanese-Canadian Bank and the Societe Generale de Banque au Liban) are "connected directly to the financial infrastructure of Hizballah."  In addition, he said, a Bank of America branch in the tri-border area of South America is handling Hizballah funds.  Shaya added that the Chavez government is allowing Hizballah to operate in Venezuela. Levi claimed that several NGOs in the United States are also supporting Hizballah and asked for them to be included on the USG lists of organizations that finance terrorism.  He agreed to provide further details on the banks and NGOs during the next terrorism finance meeting in Washington.

Should Israel get some credit?