Lebanese launderer of drug money jailed in Paris
A businessman from the Lebanese diaspora was sentenced in Paris on Wednesday to seven years in jail for being a leader of a crime ring that laundered Colombian drug money through luxury jewellery.
Mohamad Noureddine, 44, who had interests in real estate and jewellery, was convicted of laundering drug money and criminal conspiracy and fined $568,000 (Dh2.08 million).
He was arrested in France in 2016 during a series of police raids in Italy, Belgium and Germany, after an alert from the US Drug Enforcement Agency.
US officials, who imposed sanctions on Noureddine over alleged links to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, suspect the network of operating between South America, Europe and the Middle East since 2012.
The proceeds from cocaine sales were allegedly collected in Europe, then channelled to Lebanon before being transferred to Colombian traffickers.
The funds were moved using a centuries-old system of payment dating from the spice trade called “hawala”, passing through a tested network requiring ironclad trust.
After the drugs were sold, the network used hawala operatives to gather the proceeds.
The collected cash was then used to buy luxury jewellery, watches and cars that were resold in Lebanon or West Africa.
Another key figure in the case, a man named Abbas Nasser, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in absentia. He is subject to an arrest warrant.
Twelve other defendants involved in the criminal network received a range of sentences up to nine years in jail.