The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday announced that it was sanctioning Lebanese money launderer Kassem Chams for moving money on behalf of narcotics trafficking organizations and Hezbollah.
The Treasury designated the Chams Money Laundering Organization as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers (SDNT) and also blacklisted Chams Exchange, a money service business located in Chtaura, Lebanon.
It also identified Kassem Chams and the Chams Money Laundering Organization as an affiliated network of Hezbollah pursuant to the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act (HIFPAA).
“Kassem Chams and his international money laundering network move tens of millions of dollars a month in illicit narcotics proceeds on behalf of drug kingpins and facilitate money movements for Hezbollah," said Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
"We are targeting the financial infrastructure of these narcotics traffickers as part of this administration’s unprecedented campaign to prevent Hezbollah and its global terror affiliates from profiting off violence, corruption, and the drug trade,” he added.
“Treasury continues to aggressively use its tools to cut off global support networks used by Hezbollah to finance its nefarious activities.”
According to the statement, Chams moves money to and from Australia, Colombia, Italy, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Spain, Venezuela, France, Brazil, and the United States as part of his narcotics money laundering activities.
It pointed out that the Chams Money Laundering organization moves tens of millions of dollars a month for designated narcotics traffickers, such as the Colombian criminal group La Oficina De Envigado and Lebanese drug money launderer Ayman Said Joumaa.
Joumaa was designated under the Kingpin Act in 2011 for laundering the proceeds of narcotics-related and other illicit activities—as much as $200 million per month—through various channels, including bulk cash smuggling operations and Lebanese money exchange houses. Joumaa’s network is also linked to financing Hezbollah. La Oficina de Envigado was designated under the Kingpin Act in 2014.
"These sanctions are part of a joint effort with DEA’s Project Cassandra, which targets Hezbollah’s global criminal support networks that operate as a logistics, procurement and financing arm for Hezbollah and which are involved in the global movement of large quantities of narcotics and proceeds from narcotics sales," the Treasury stressed.
"The DEA has determined that the Chams Money Laundering Organization launders a large portion of drug proceeds through Lebanon, which also benefits Hezbollah."
The Chams Exchange operates under license and the supervision of the Central Bank of Lebanon (BdL) despite U.S authorities long suspecting it of being a significant third party money laundering operation, the statement said.
"Treasury is committed to working with BdL to eliminate access to the Lebanese financial system by narcotics traffickers, money launderers, and terrorist groups such as Hezbollah."
The Treasury Department said it will continue to prioritize disruption of the full range of Hezbollah’s "illicit financial activity".