The Federal government last week announced sanctions against a trio of Lebanese men and several companies associated with them over allegations that they are involved in laundering money for Hizballah.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) say the men and their network have laundered tens of millions of dollars for the terror group and its allies, whom OFAC says engage in illegal activity that places Hizballah’s interest ahead of those of the Lebanese people.
Among the misdeeds engaged in by the sanctioned individuals is massive tax evasion, which it says one individual is guilty of by shielding valuable artwork from taxes. OFAC says the individual owns tens of millions of dollars worth of art, including paintings by Picasso and Warhol. OFAC alleges him of transacting such art in illegal sales and receiving payment for it by bulk cash transfers, thus eluding Lebanese authorities and their efforts at assessing taxes on the transactions.
Another of the sanctioned individuals is a diamond dealer who is allegedly involved in the trade of “blood diamonds” and is accused of running businesses in Belgium in order to raise funds for Hizballah. He too stores much of his wealth in valuable art in order to evade taxes and sanctions, and he also allegedly opened an art gallery in Beirut as a cover for money laundering.
The third man sanctioned by OFAC last week allegedly conducted business with a previously-designated individual involved in Hizballah. The Office says he is one of the few people left who still conducts business with that individual, and often serves as a business partner or as a straw purchaser.