~Contributed & Written by Kenneth Rijock ~
ARREST OF LEBANESE NATIONAL WITH $500,000 SUSPECTED OF BEING A HEZBOLLAH LAUNDRYMAN
The arrest in Panama of a Lebanese national, believed to be part of a team of money launderers working for Hezbollah, puts a spotlight on recent US Government sanctions against Western Hemisphere operations of the Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) organization, thought to be sending hundreds of millions of dollars annually, to help fund its Middle Eastern activities. The money comes from narcotics trafficking, and other illicit activities.
Reliable sources in Colombia have indicated that the former Panamanian Minister of Tourism Salomón Shamah, a Colombian who is a naturalized Panamanian citizen, and a longtime reputed money launderer in Panama, is linked to the Hezbollah network. Shamah has lived in exile in Colombia since the entire Martinelli Cabinet was implicated in the Financial Pacific/Petaquilla Gold Mine insider trading scandal.
|Salomón Shamah: was the money going to him ?|
It is noteworthy that the suspect, identified as A. Khalifeh,who was in possession of $500,000, in cash, held a passport from Ghana. Money launderers frequently use identity documents from countries not known to be either tax havens, or countries known to be narcotics producers, or transit zones, to reduce the risk that they will be scrutinized.
They often do not even speak the official language of the country they claim to be nationals of, which the weakness you can exploit as a compliance officer. Why does he hold a passport from a country he has no ties to ?
Perhaps the increased attention of late, on money laundering in material support of terrorism will cause compliance officers to remember that Panama is home to most of the organized Hezbollah money laundering in the region; the suspect was transiting through there, bound for Colombia.
The fact that the Government of Panama allows Hezbollah to operate there, and to maintain an office, says a lot about the issue ; there is both Panamanian complicity in infacilitating terrorist financing, and the passivity of US law enforcement agencies, who merely monitor it, without forcing Panama to shut it down.
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