U.S. authorities have seized $150 million from a New York account of the Lebanon’s Banque Libano Francaise SAL (BLF), which authorities say is connected with a larger scheme to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through U.S. banks for the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The latest seizure comes after federal prosecutors filed a civil lawsuit last year alleging that Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB) was laundering funds for Hezbollah as part of a broader narcotics network. U.S. officials believe that Hezbollah has been cooperating with international narcotics smuggling networks for several years to fund its terrorist operations.
“Money is the lifeblood of terrorist and narcotics organizations, and while banks which launder money for terrorists and narco-traffickers may be located abroad, today’s announcement demonstrates that those banks and their assets are not beyond our reach,” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.
The U.S. government has increasingly voiced concerns over Lebanon’s financial system, especially after Hezbollah seized control of the Lebanese government last year. U.S. officials also believe Iran and Syria use Lebanese banks to evade international sanctions, the Journal reported.