A qui profite le séjour de ces individus au Bénin ?
Boni YAYI doit se saisir du dossier
Par Tchéwélé SAKPATASSI
Soupçonnés d'appartenir au groupe Hezbollah, cinq Libanais ont été écoutés par le procureur de la République le lundi dernier. Après les avoir auditionné, ils ont été libérés et mis sous convocation pour le 13 prochain. Malgré la publication de l'avis de constat du Réseau de Lutte contre les Crimes Financiers, Trésor (''FinCEN'') et le rapport de la Situation des transferts de fonds (Banque Atlantique Bénin) qui incriminent les inculpés, aucune autre action n'est menée. Du moins le gouvernement jusque là ne s'est toujours pas encore prononcé. Ce mutisme du ministre suscite déjà interrogations. Puisque, il y a quelques mois, de cela, un certain nommé Ali Kharroubi à qui était reproché de mener des activités illicites et blanchiment d'argent n'avait pas fait l'objet d'une décision de justice avant la prononciation de son expulsion du territoire béninois par le gouvernement. On ne comprend donc pas pourquoi, jusque là ces individus identifiés comme étant des collaborateurs du Hezbollah, un réseau terroriste en liberté et en circulation au Bénin malgré l'alerte des Etats-Unis. Par le passé, le gouvernement a affiché sa détermination à sécuriser le territoire national en prenant très tôt des dispositions qui s'imposaient. Devrait-on, rappeler donc que ce dossier ne concerne pas la justice mais plutôt qu'il revient au gouvernement de les expulser. Déjà, ces individus indexés, s'affairent de leur côté. Ils profitent de leur liberté pour évacuer tout leurs biens. Parmi ces présumés collaborateurs du Hezbollah, se retrouve un libanais qui répond au nom d'Ali, FAWAZ, membre du réseau Rmeyti qui détient la nationalité béninoise. Vue la portée de ce dossier les autorités compétentes doivent lui retirer cette grâce. A travers un rapport réalisé par des Américains, les sociétés WCS et TAG ont été citées. Notifions que ces individus interpellés ont été identifiés pour avoir été signataires des comptes des dites sociétés au nom desquelles, ils ont effectué des opérations par la Banque Atlantique du Bénin. Il faut ajouter que les concernés travaillent sous la tutelle d'un nommé Kssem Rmeity, leur frère et patron. Au regard de tout cela, les laisser continuer à séjourner au Bénin serait une manière d'encourager le blanchiment d'argent et le financement du Hezbolah à partir du Bénin. Pour éviter de se retrouver dans le viseur des Américains, Boni YAYI doit instruire le ministre de l'intérieur afin que ces Libanais subissent le même sort qu'Ali Kharroubi.
(Lire l’Avis de constat que Kassem Rmeiti & Co pour le Change est une institution financière de blanchiment de capitaux primaires)
DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY
Notice of Finding That Halawi Exchange Co. is a Financial Institution of Primary
Money Laundering Concern
AGENCY: Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Treasury ("FinCEN").
ACTION: Notice of finding.
SUMMARY: This document provides notice that, pursuant to the authority contained in
31 U.S.C. 5318A, the Director of FinCEN found on April 22, 2013, that Halawi
Exchange Co. ("Halawi Exchange") is a financial institution operating outside the United
States that is of primary money laundering concern.
DATES: The finding referred to in this notice was effective as of April 22, 2013.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: FinCEN, (800) 949-2732.
I. Statutory Provisions
On October 26, 2001, the President signed into law the Uniting and Strengthening
America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism
Act of 2001 (the "USA PATRIOT Act"), Public Law 107-56. Title III of the USA
PATRIOT Act amends the anti-money laundering provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act
("BSA"), codified at 12 U.S.C. 1829b, 12 U.S.C 1951-1959, and 31 U.S.C. 5311-5314,
5316-5332, to promote the prevention, detection, and prosecution of international money
laundering and the financing of terrorism. Regulations implementing the BSA appear at
31 CFR Chapter X. The authority of the Secretary of the Treasury (the "Secretary") to
administer the BSA and its implementing regulations has been delegated to the Director
Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act ("Section 311"), codified at 31 U.S.C.
5318A, grants the Secretary the authority, upon finding that reasonable grounds exist for
concluding that a foreign jurisdiction, financial institution, class of transaction, or type of
account is of "primary money laundering concern," to require domestic financial
institutions and financial agencies to take certain "special measures" to address the
primary money laundering concern.
II. The Extent to Which Halawi Exchange Is Used for Legitimate Business
Purposes in Lebanon
A. Halawi Exchange
Halawi Exchange offers a variety of financial services, primarily currency
exchange and transmission of funds. Halawi Exchange, along with other related entities,
is organized under a holding company known as Halawi Holding SAL, which also owns
several other related companies in Lebanon. The Halawi companies are based in Beirut,
Lebanon, share key corporate leadership, maintain offices at the same addresses, share
common phone numbers and common email addresses, and frequently reference their
close connection to one another. They are also regularly displayed together on corporate
signage and on public materials, one of which shows them collectively under a banner
which reads "Collaboration Under One Thumb."
Available information suggests that Halawi Exchange, in addition to the activities
of concern discussed below, engages in other, unremarkable transactions of a type,
volume, and variety typical of Lebanese exchange houses or brokerages. If these services
were offered to U.S. customers and if they took place wholly or substantially in the
United States, the Halawi Exchange would be treated as a financial institution under the
BSA, defined at 31 C.F.R. 1010.100(t)(3). Specifically, Halawi Exchange offer services
that would be defined as money transmission, activities defined at 31 C.F.R.
1010.100(ff), in addition to other services it may offer.
Halawi Exchange identifies itself as "a family business under the Halawi group."
In 2012, Halawi Exchange expanded to cover five branches in Lebanon and a sister
company in London under the name "Halawi Exchange Co. LTD." It lists its partners as
Mahmoud Halawi and Ali Halawi who, according to Halawi Exchange, maintain "daily
involvement in management and operations of the company." Halawi Exchange also
advertises that it operates in the Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar,
Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Mahmoud Halawi is the sole or majority owner and senior management officer at
Halawi Exchange, Halawi Holding SAL, and Halawi Investment Trust SAL. He is also
President of the Money Changers Association in Lebanon. His son, Fouad Halawi, is a
Director at Halawi Holding SAL and has served as a manager at Halawi Exchange.
Lebanon is a financial hub for banking activities in the Middle East and eastern
Mediterranean and has a sophisticated banking sector.1 There are 72 banks operating in
Lebanon,2 and all major banks have correspondent relationships with U.S. financial
institutions. The five largest commercial banks account for an estimated 61% of total
banking assets for the country, which are estimated at $95 billion.3 The government
retains no direct ownership of any commercial banks and maintains an indirect ownership
1 "2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report ('INCSR')," Bureau of International Narcotics and
Law Enforcement Affairs, The Department of State, March 7, 2012
2 "Complete List of Operating Banks in Lebanon," Banque du Liban (www.bdl.gov.lb).
www.bdl.gov.lb/bfs/CB/index.htm as of 1/30/2013
3 Estimated from values in the "2012 Investment Climate Statement- Lebanon," Bureau of Economic and
Business Affairs, June 2012 Report. www.state.gov/e/eb/rls/othr/ics/2012/191182.htm
stake in one bank.4 Despite slowed economic growth following domestic political
instability and regional turmoil in 2011, Lebanon's banking sector continues to rely on
significant capital inflows from the Lebanese diaspora community,5 which has been a
large contributor to banking sector liquidity and capitalization, estimated by the World
Bank at $7.6 billion-18% of GDP-in 2011.6 Banks' exposure to the heavily-indebted
sovereign, with total government debt projected at 132% of GDP in 2012, remains a
significant risk to stability and growth of the financial sector.7
4 "2012 Index of Economic Freedom," The Heritage Foundation.
5 "2012 Investment Climate Statement- Lebanon," Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, The
Department of State, June 2012 Report. www.state.gov/e/eb/rls/othr/ics/2012/191182.htm
6 The latest available World Bank data estimated in November 2012 that remittances were $7.6bn for 2012.
"Remittances Data: Inflows," Migration and Remittances, The World Bank, November 2012.
7 "IMF Executive Board Concludes 2011 Article IV Consultation with Lebanon Public Information Notice
(PIN) No. 12/11, "International Monetary Fund, February 8, 2012
8 BdL, Law 347 Regulating the Money Changer Profession in Lebanon, August 6, 2001
9 BdL, List of Exchange Institutions, May 2012, http://www.bdl.gov.lb/bfs/MS/Money_Dealers_arabic.pdf
10 BdL, Intermediate BdL Circular 264, dated May 21, 2011, pages 3-4,
Money exchange businesses became a major feature of Lebanon's financial sector
during the Lebanese civil war and have played a key role in providing services such as
international funds transfers, currency conversion, and payments and deposits for
domestic and expatriate Lebanese clientele since 1990. In 2001, Lebanon's Central
Bank, Banque du Liban ("BdL"), published a set of circulars expanding regulations for
exchange houses operating in the country.8 Since the enactment of the 2001 law, 732
money exchange businesses have registered with BdL, and currently there are 374 active
licensed businesses.9 Each of these active licensed businesses must process payments
through business accounts established in Lebanese banks.10
Lebanon also faces money laundering and terrorist financing vulnerabilities11 due
to weaknesses in its Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism
("AML/CFT") regime, porous borders, ineffective and inconsistent regulation, and a
challenging and complex domestic and regional political and security environment,
among other factors. Of concern is the possibility that a portion of the substantial flow of
remittances could be associated with trade-based money laundering and other illicit
finance activities. For example, Lebanon imposes currency reporting requirements on
banks and money exchange businesses that undertake cross-border cash and precious
metal activity,12 but has no corresponding cross-border declaration requirement for the
public at Lebanese points of entry, resulting in a significant cash-smuggling vulnerability.
11 2012 INCSR
12 Special Investigation Commission, Intermediate BdL Circular 263, dated May 21, 2011,
13 FinCEN, Finding That the Lebanese Canadian Bank SAL Is a Financial Institution of Primary Money
Laundering Concern, 76 F.R. 9403, dated February 17, 2011, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-02-
14 Press Release, "Treasury Targets Major Lebanese-Based Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering
Network," 1/26/11, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1035.aspx; Additions to
These vulnerabilities have been recently exploited to support trade-based money
laundering. FinCEN identified Lebanese Canadian Bank ("LCB") as an institution of
primary money laundering concern in February 2011 (the "LCB 311 Action"),13 which
was preceded by the Office of Foreign Assets Control's ("OFAC's") designation of
Lebanese Ayman Joumaa as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker ("SDNT"), as
well as of three Lebanon-based money exchange businesses used by Ayman Joumaa and
his organization to launder illicit proceeds, Elissa Exchange Company, Hassan Ayash
Exchange, and New Line Exchange Trust Co., under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Act
Designation in January 2011.14 In the LCB 311 Action, FinCEN determined that LCB
OFAC's SDN list, dated January 26, 2011, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFACEnforcement/
15 The United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York Press Release, "U.S. Charges
Alleged Lebanese Drug Kingpin With Laundering Drug Proceeds For Mexican And Colombian Drug
Cartels" December 13, 2011, http://www.justice.gov/usao/vae/news/2011/12/20111213joumaanr.html
16 The United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York press release and civil
was facilitating the money laundering activities of the Joumaa drug trafficking and
money laundering network. This network moved illegal drugs from South America to
Europe and the Middle East via West Africa and laundered hundreds of millions of
dollars monthly through accounts held at LCB, as well as through trade-based money
laundering involving consumer goods throughout the world, including through used car
dealerships in the United States. Further, the LCB 311 Action exposed the terrorist
organization Hizballah's links to LCB and that Hizballah derived financial support from
criminal activities of Joumaa's network.
Following these Treasury actions, two U.S. Attorney's Offices took actions
against Ayman Joumaa, Elissa Exchange, and Hassan Ayash Exchange. In December
2011, a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia returned an indictment against
Ayman Joumaa for conspiracy to distribute narcotics and conspiracy to commit money
laundering related to drug trafficking by Mexican and Colombian drug cartels.15 In
August 2012, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York
("SDNY") seized $150 million as part of a civil money laundering and forfeiture action
against Hizballah-linked LCB, Elissa Exchange, and Hassan Ayash Exchange based on
money laundering schemes involving Ayman Joumaa, the exchange houses, and U.S. car
dealers.16 The "SDNY Complaint" listed, by name, 30 U.S. car dealers and a U.S.
shipping company that facilitated the scheme.
BdL re-evaluated AML/CFT regulations regarding money exchange businesses
following the Treasury actions. In May and August 2011, BdL revised Lebanon's
AML/CFT regulations regarding supervised banks and other non-bank financial
institutions by publishing seven decisions17 modifying Law 347 (dated August 6, 2001).
BdL required all of these active licensed money exchangers to maintain business
accounts at a formal financial institution, such as a registered Lebanese bank subject to
BdL supervision, and prohibited exchangers from operating accounts at Lebanese banks
on behalf of their clients.18
17 In May 2011 Intermediate Decisions 10725, 10726 and 10728 and in August 2011 Intermediate
Decisions 10787, 10789, 10791, and 10792 were published regarding AML/CFT regulations of exchange
18 BdL, Intermediate BdL Circular 264, dated May 21, 2011, pages 3-4,
19 Hizballah is a Lebanon-based terrorist group. Until September 11, 2001, Hizballah was responsible for
more American deaths than any other terrorist organization.
20 For additional information about Lebanon's legal framework and special mechanisms for anti-money
laundering and terrorist financing measures, see The Middle East and North Africa Financial Task Force
(MENAFATF) Mutual Evaluation Report, Lebanese Republic, November 10, 2009 (www.menafatf.org).
Despite some improvements to its financial sector supervision, Lebanon still has
not acceded to the UN Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.
And Hizballah, an organization which the United States designated as a Foreign Terrorist
Organization in October 1997 and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under
Executive Order 13224 in October 2001,19 is a recognized political party with an active
role in the Lebanese government. Though it has adopted laws domestically criminalizing
any funds resulting from the financing, or contribution to the financing, of terrorism,20 the
active participatory role of a designated terrorist group in the Lebanese government and
civil society calls into question the broader efficacy of Lebanon's AML/CFT regime.
III. The Extent to Which Halawi Exchange and Its Subsidiaries Have Been Used
to Facilitate or Promote Money Laundering in or Through Lebanon.
According to information available to the U.S. Government, Halawi Exchange, its
subsidiaries, and their respective management, ownership, and key employees are
engaged in illicit financial activity. A pattern of regular, round-number, largedenomination
international wire transfers consistent with money laundering are processed
through Halawi Exchange. Many of these transactions appear to be structured because
they are separated into multiple smaller transactions for no apparent reason. Halawi
Exchange facilitates transactions as part of a large-scale trade-based money laundering
scheme that involves the purchase of used cars in the United States for export to West
Africa. Additionally, Halawi Exchange, and its management, ownership, and key
employees are complicit in providing money laundering services for an international
narcotics trafficking and money laundering network that is affiliated with Hizballah.
A. Past and Current Association with Used Car Trade-Based Money
Halawi Exchange facilitates transactions for a network of individuals and
companies which launder money through the purchase and sale of used cars in the United
States for export to West Africa. In support of this network, management, ownership,
and key employees of Halawi Exchange coordinate transactions-processed within and
outside of Halawi Exchange-on behalf of Benin-based money launderers and their
associates. A significant portion of the funds are intended for U.S.-based car dealerships
for the purchase of cars which are then shipped to Benin.
As of late 2012, Halawi Exchange was primarily used by Benin-based Lebanese
car lot owners to wire transfer money to their U.S. suppliers. The proceeds of car sales
were hand-transported in the form of bulk cash U.S. dollars from Cotonou, Benin to
Beirut, Lebanon via air travel and deposited directly into one of the Halawi Exchange
offices, which allowed bulk cash deposits to be made without requiring documentation of
where the money originated. Halawi Exchange, through its network of established
international exchange houses, initiated wire transfers to the United States without using
the Lebanese banking system in order to avoid scrutiny associated with Treasury's
designations of Hassan Ayash Exchange, Elissa Exchange, and its LCB 311 Action. The
money was wire transferred indirectly to the United States through countries that
included China, Singapore, and the UAE, which were perceived to receive less scrutiny
by the U.S. Government.
Participants in this network have coordinated the movement of millions of dollars
per month, a significant portion of which has moved through Halawi Exchange. For
example, in early 2012, Halawi Exchange, its management, its ownership, or key
employees were involved in arranging multiple wire transfers totaling over $4 million on
behalf of this network. Additionally, as of mid-2012, central figures in this scheme
planned to move $224 million worth of vehicle shipping contracts through this network
via a Halawi-owned Benin-based car lot, which receives vehicle shipments from the
United States. Mahmoud Halawi was heavily involved in the establishment of this car
lot, which is run by Ahmed Tofeily, a Benin-based money launderer, and continues to be
involved in its operations. This car lot was established six months after the SDNY
Complaint. Additionally, Tofeily-a Halawi agent/employee-owns and operates a car
lot in Benin named Auto Deal (AKA Ste Auto Deal, Societe Auto Deal) which purchases
cars in Canada and exports them through the United States. Tofeily worked closely with
Halawi Exchange and wired all of his money through it. This car lot-identified as
maintaining no brick and mortar structures-has wired hundreds of thousands of dollars
throughout 2012 from Benin to U.S.-based car dealerships.
From 2008 to 2011, Halawi Exchange, its management, and employees sent
numerous international wire transfers to U.S.-based used car companies consistent with
the practice of laundering money through the purchase of cars in the United States for
export to West Africa. Ali Halawi-a partner at Halawi Exchange-is listed by name on
many of these transfers. A large number of these transfers were sent through accounts at
LCB, which has been identified by Treasury as a financial institution of primary money
laundering concern under Section 311 for its role in facilitating the money laundering
activities of Ayman Joumaa's international narcotics trafficking and money laundering
network. Some of the U.S.-based car dealerships that received funds transfers from
Halawi Exchange were later identified in the SDNY Complaint as participants in the
Joumaa network's money laundering activities.
Joumaa's network moved illegal drugs from South America to Europe and the
Middle East via West Africa and laundered hundreds of millions of dollars monthly
through accounts held at LCB, as well as through trade-based money laundering
involving consumer goods throughout the world, including through used car dealerships
in the United States. This criminal scheme involved bulk cash smuggling operations and
use of several Lebanese exchange houses that utilized accounts at LCB branches, as
discussed in the LCB 311 Action.
Halawi Exchange has also worked with other Lebanese exchange houses,
including Rmeiti Exchange, to facilitate money laundering activities. For example,
Halawi Exchange, Rmeiti Exchange, and other exchange houses sent over $9 million in
dozens of round-number, large-denomination international wire transfers from unknown
sources to the same U.S. car shipping business from 2007 through 2010.
B. Past and Current Connection to Designated Narcotics Kingpins and
SDNTs Ibrahim Chebli and Abbas Hussein Harb regularly coordinated and
executed financial transactions-including bulk cash transfers-that were processed
through the Halawi Exchange. Harb and Chebli were designated by Treasury in June
2012 pursuant to the Kingpin Act for collaboration with Joumaa in the movement of
millions of dollars of narcotics-related proceeds. Harb's Columbia- and Venezuela-based
organization has laundered money for the Joumaa network through the Lebanese
financial sector. Additionally, Chebli used his position as the manager of the Abbassieh
branch of Fenicia Bank in Lebanon to facilitate the movement of money for Joumaa and
21 Exhibit 25 - Press Release, "Treasury Targets Major Money Laundering Network Linked to Drug
Trafficker Ayman Joumaa and a Key Hizballah Supporter in South America," 6/27/11,
C. Past and Current Connection to Another International Narcotics
Trafficking and Money Laundering Network with Ties to Hizballah
Management and key employees at Lebanon-based Halawi Exchange and
members of the Halawi family coordinate, execute, receive, or are otherwise involved in
millions of dollars worth of transactions for members of another international narcotics
trafficking and money laundering network. For example, high-level management at
Lebanon-based Halawi Exchange and members of the Halawi family were involved in
the movement of over $4 million in late 2012 for this international narcotics trafficking
and money laundering network. Additionally, Fouad Halawi, acting in his capacity as a
senior official at Halawi Holding, was responsible for the receipt and transfer of funds for
this narcotics trafficking and money laundering network and provided accounting
services for its senior leadership. To avoid detection, the involved parties scheduled
structured payments by splitting larger sums into smaller, more frequent transactions
which they often moved through numerous high-risk jurisdictions.
This additional international narcotics trafficking and money laundering network
has been involved in extensive international narcotics trafficking operations. For
example, it is known to have trafficked heroin from Lebanon to the United States and
hundred-kilogram quantities of cocaine from South America to Nigeria for distribution in
Europe and Lebanon. It is also known to have trafficked cocaine out of Lebanon in
multi-ton quantities. The head of this network has operated an extensive money
laundering organization, including a series of offshore corporate shell companies and
underlying bank accounts, established by intermediaries, to receive and send money
transfers throughout the world. It has arranged the laundering of profits from large-scale
narcotics trafficking operations. Transfers coordinated by this network have impacted the
United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and South America.
This international narcotics trafficking and money laundering network is affiliated with
Additionally, Halawi Exchange is known to have laundered profits from drug
trafficking and cocaine-related money laundering for a Hizballah leader and narcotics
trafficker. Halawi Exchange has also been routinely used by other Hizballah associates
as a means to transfer illicit funds.
IV. The Extent to Which This Action Is Sufficient to Guard Against
International Money Laundering and Other Financial Crimes.
Published by Journal Le Clairon - Arrêtés puis mis en liberté sous convocation : L’expulsion des disciples du Hezbollah s’impose