Le­banese laun­derer of drug money jailed in Paris

The National - News - - NEWS - Agence France-Presse

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.

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