Conviction tip of the iceberg in alleged Hezbollah TBML cases

The prosecutor of a case in which a Miami court has sentenced Lebanese-born Ali Kassir to a two-year jail term has described the convicted man’s operations as trade-based money laundering (TBML), which the lawyer describes as a “serious crime.”

The owner of a shipping company and a suspected Hezbollah facilitator, Kassir appeared to have a thriving business importing electronic products from China and exporting them to Paraguay.

But Miami federal prosecutor Michael Thakur said Kassir “had wire transfers from all over the world that had nothing to do with these products.”

Accounting discrepancies

Kassir, a naturalised US citizen, withdrew almost US$155 million from his shipping company’s bank account and used the majority of the funds for wire transfers related to his exports to Paraguay.

However, he reported to US Customs that his company, An Imex Inc, had exported only some US$85 million of electronics products to Paraguay, leaving the application of US$70 million of the wire transfers unaccounted for.

Shell business

Miami federal court heard that Kassir used a shell business, 4G Global Trading, to disguise his illicit transactions.

He also created phony invoices to make it look like the wire transfers were for products being shipped to Paraguay.

Hezbollah connections

Kassir’s conviction is thought to be the first of a string of interconnected cases implicating alleged Hezbollah financiers and their US-based business counterparts.

The entire string of cases involve money transfers worth hundreds of millions of dollars through the US financial system, allegedly for laundering criminal proceeds and terrorist financing for Hezbollah, the Lebanese group Washington has designated a terrorist organisation.

Categories: Trade Based Financial crimes News

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