US authorities accused a Lebanese drug kingpin Tuesday of allegedly
helping to smuggle huge amounts of cocaine into the United States and
laundering hundreds of millions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels.
Ayman Joumaa, 47, was accused of conspiring with others to
help ship some 85,000 kg (187,400 pounds) of cocaine from Colombia from 2005 to
2007. He was also accused of helping launder more than $250 million in drug
money for the Los Zetas drug cartel.
The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in
Virginia in late November and unsealed by a judge Monday. Joumaa is not in
custody, according to prosecutors.
In January Joumaa, along with nine other people and 19
entities connected to his organization, were designated by the US Treasury
Department as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers.
US authorities at the time said Joumaa had laundered drug
money through the Lebanese Canadian Bank, which was also designed by US
authorities as a "primary money-laundering concern." The bank denied
any involvement in wrongdoing.
The indictment against Joumaa said he arranged to launder
the drug-related proceeds from Mexico, Europe, West Africa and Colombia and he
would charge a fee ranging from 8 percent to 14 percent. Sometimes the proceeds
were delivered to Mexico City in shipments of bulk US currency, it said.
He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
"Money fuels the drug trade, and Mr. Joumaa is alleged
to be at the center of it all - working with those producing the vast majority
of the world's cocaine to get their drugs safely into the hands of Mexican cartels
and then moving hundreds of millions in proceeds all around the world," US
Attorney Neil MacBride said.
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