Money Laundering Suit: First the Punishment, Then the Verdict

The U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York issued a press release yesterday about its massive civil lawsuit alleging money laundering against the defunct Canadian Lebanese Bank and various U.S. businesses and auto dealerships for engaging in monetary transactions to support Hezbollah. . The 66 page complaint is here.

8 of the car dealerships are in Michigan. According to a Detroit news station, DEA Special Operations Chief Derek Maltz told ABC's Brian Ross that the dealerships, as well as all 30 US businesses named in the Complaint are being investigated to determine whether they were aware their proceeds from sales of cars shipped to Africa ended up in Hezbollah's coffers. Maltz said it's not clear yet whether the businesses did have knowledge. [More...]

Nonetheless, Maltz said 30 restraining orders were served today, effectively freezing the assets and accounts of the 30 businesses.

"We’re interviewing the different car dealership owners....We’re serving them with restraining orders. There are 30 businesses in the United States being served restraining orders. And we’re also serving over 60 banks in the United States, bank accounts with these orders as well," he said.

... "It’s an active investigation we do not have specific detailed information on what these particular car dealership owners knew.

Another DEA spokesman told the local Detroit news station:

....[I]t's entirely possible that some of these dealerships are unaware of who they were selling cars to, and just where the money was going.

According to the civil complaint:

Because the Defendant Properties constitute or were derived from proceeds traceable to violations of executive orders and regulations issued pursuant to IEEPA (including Executive Order 13224), the Defendant Properties are subject to forfeiture pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 981(a)(1)©.

Title 18, United States Code, Section 981(a)(1)(A)
subjects to forfeiture “[a]ny property, real or personal, involved in a transaction or attempted transaction in violation of . . . section 1956 or 1957 of this title [relating to money
laundering], or any property traceable to such property.”

The Complaint asks that:

[A]ll persons having an interest in the
Defendant Properties be cited to appear and show cause why the forfeiture should not be decreed...

2 of the dealerships were in Maryland. The DC NBC News station reports:

Federal authorities say that while the law has the right to seize the assets of businesses that were knowingly or unknowingly involved, they do not believe that the car dealers in Maryland knew these transactions supported Hezbollah.

Welcome to Alice in Wonderland:

'No, no!' said the Queen. `Sentence first --verdict afterwards.'

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