Many Lebanese Used Car sales shops in Cotonou and Nigeria are Fronts for Terrorists
After the new US Treasury sanctions on Hezbollah Terror finances, several used cars selling lots in Cotonou Benin Republique & Lome Togo are closing up.
The Anwar brothers lots in Cotonou flagged. Several Lebanese restaurant chains & property Coy in West Africa flagged.
The Hezbollah aligned money laundering network that funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to Lebanon through a web of Orphanages, Fishing coys, commodity imports and drug traffickers especially in Senegal, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Guinea in West Africa are placed under watch.
The U.S. alleged at the time that hundreds of millions of dollars from overseas car sales were mixed with profits from Latin American drug cartels and deposited at a Lebanese bank that cooperated in the money laundering.
Hezbollah took a cut for handling the deal, and some money returned to U.S. car dealers to buy more vehicles, according to federal investigators and a 2011 lawsuit filed by the U.S. attorney’s office in New York.
The Wall Street Journal examined the U.S.-to-Benin used-car trade and found that some of the same U.S. dealers identified in the 2011 suit continue to buy used cars, which are ferried abroad by some of the same shippers.
In Benin, Mrs. Murray’s Toyota and hundreds of other vehicles collect on the lot of a used-car business owned by a man who U.S. officials have said was part of the plot, the Journal found.
The dealers and shippers mentioned in this article denied any illegal activity, including any connection with the terrorist group. But current and former U.S. officials say the Hezbollah used-car network, which helps fund its global operations, is still alive.
“This marriage of convenience between global drug dealers and terror organizations continues to pose a significant threat to the United States and our allies world-wide,” a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration said.
Hezbollah, a political party in Lebanon that also provides social services, is widely believed to be responsible for attacks against Americans dating back to the 1980s. It is illegal for U.S. citizens to do any business with the group, which was designated by the government in 1995 as a terror organization. The group has long denied any criminal ties.
None of the U.S. car dealers admitted wrongdoing in the civil case, although some forfeited a portion of profits. Some quit the business. All but one, who vanished, agreed to vet their customers and never do business with anyone they had reason to believe was connected to Hezbollah, according to settlements reached with the government in 2012 and 2013.
More than $300 million changed hands in the scheme from 2007 to 2011, the government alleged in the suit. The work was lucrative for the U.S. dealers, earning them as much as tens of thousands of dollars a month, some said in interviews. Many were Lebanese émigrés. Some had little or no experience in the car business. One had been in real estate; another installed carpets.
More than a dozen stayed in touch after the 2011 case was settled. Some said they saw each other at auctions. Others are friends on Facebook, where they post pictures of their cars and travels, including one of a group on beach chairs during a recent trip to Benin.
At least 10 of the dealers continued to send cars to West Africa after the investigation, according to corporate and shipping records and dozens of interviews.
At the same time, five of the 10 largest shippers sending cars from the U.S. to Benin since 2012 had business ties to people and firms named in the government suit or to targets in other legal actions brought by the U.S. against Hezbollah, according to a review of export records from shipping research firm PIERS. Those five companies accounted for at least a third of the roughly 300,000 vehicles sent to Benin during that time, records show.
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