Would you buy a used car from these jihadis? They’re doing this in Tennessee and Tulsa, too. “Lansing used car dealership investigated in terror scheme,” by Niraj Warikoo for the Detroit Free Press, December 28 (thanks to Kenneth):
A Lansing car dealership is named among 30 around the country in a federal investigation into an alleged $480 million money laundering scheme tied to Mideast terrorist group Hezbollah, federal prosecutors said.
According to a federal lawsuit filed in New York City, Oussama Salhab, the owner of Cybamar Swiss, a Redford Township transport company, “is a Hezbollah operative” who was part of an effort to funnel part of the proceeds from car sales to the Lebanese group.
The 66-page complaint lists a Lansing company called A&J Auto Sales Inc. as one of the dealers in Michigan – along with eight in and around Detroit.
However, the used car dealers are not accused in the federal complaint of being aware that they were part of a money laundering scheme and may have been unwitting participants.
It’s unclear who owns A&J Auto Sales Inc. A business search turned up no results in Lansing, and the U.S. attorney’s office referred to the complaint in lieu of comment.
The suit seeks the forfeiture of the assets of Cybamar.
In addition, federal officials sought the forfeiture of used car dealerships in Detroit, Dearborn Heights, Lansing and Redford Township that sold vehicles whose proceeds may have ended up going to Hezbollah.
Salhab bought vehicles from at least two of the dealerships, and his Redford company shipped many of the used cars overseas….
The complaint, filed Dec. 15, is the latest U.S. effort to target Hezbollah, a group based in Lebanon that the U.S. State Department classifies as a terrorist group and says has Iranian support. U.S. authorities say the group was behind bomb attacks against the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 and 1984.
“We are putting a stranglehold on a major source of that funding by disrupting a vast and far-flung network that spanned three continents,” said Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The complaint says that banks and money exchanges in Lebanon tied to Hezbollah purchased cars from 30 car dealers – eight of them in metro Detroit – and sent them to west Africa. Cybamar in Redford was often used to ship the cars.
“Between 2008 and 2010, used cars valued collectively at over $1 billion were shipped from the United States to Benin (in Africa),” the complaint says. “Cybamar is … frequently used by the car buyers.”
Proceeds from car sales ended up in Lebanon, with some of the cash going to Hezbollah. Drug smuggling also was involved in some parts of the operation, the complaint said.
Salhab, who lives in Lebanon and the African country of Togo, tried to enter the U.S. in November 2009 through Metro Airport.
He was sent back after inspectors found images on his laptop of Hezbollah “Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah; audio of the Hezbollah national anthem; images of Hezbollah militants stomping on an Israeli flag,” the lawsuit says.