Lebanese accused of Hezbollah drug smuggling

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Washington - The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday banned Americans from doing business with four Lebanese and Venezuelan men it accused of helping to smuggle narcotics and oversee fundraising for the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant group.

The four men are: Abbas Hussein Harb, who holds citizenship in Lebanon and Venezuela; Ibrahim Chibl, a Lebanese citizen; Ali Houssein Harb and Kassem Mohamad Saleh, both duel citizens of Lebanon and Venezuela.

Hezbollah is a Shi'ite Muslim political party and guerrilla group that remains powerful in Lebanon and receives funding from Iran. Hezbollah has supported long-time ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and is listed by the United States as a terrorist group.

The U.S. Treasury Department said the group of men are linked to Lebanese drug kingpin Ayman Joumaa, who was indicted last December by a U.S. federal grand jury in Virginia on charges of aiding Mexican drug cartels. The department said Harb and Chibl conspired with others to help ship millions of dollars in narcotics.

Harb and Chibl, using a Colombia- and Venezuela-based organization, laundered money through the Lebanese financial sector, the Treasury Department said.

The group of men were also accused of playing a role in money laundering to help benefit criminals and Hezbollah.

The U.S. Treasury said Americans are now banned from doing any business with the four men under the terms of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.

Separately, the United States named Ali Mohamad Saleh, who holds citizenship in Lebanon and Colombia, as a global terrorist for his association with Hezbollah. - Reuters

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