ARGENTINA’S FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE UNIT (UIF) FREEZES ASSETS OF SUSPECTED FINANCIERS OF HEZBOLLAH WHO WOULD BE OPERATING AT THE TRI-BORDER AREA
Buenos Aires, Argentina.- On July 11, 2018 Argentina’s Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF-AR) ordered the administrative freezing of assets and money of the members of an alleged criminal organization linked to Hezbollah, which would be operating at the area known as the "Tri-Border Area" comprising Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
The freezing was ordered in exercise of the legal powers conferred upon UIF-AR by Law 26 734, regulated by Decree 918/2012, which authorizes UIF-AR to carry out the administrative freezing of assets and money linked to the criminal actions provided for under article 306 of the CRIMINAL CODE (terrorist financing offence), in order to protect the integrity of the economic and financial order, as well as international peace and security, in accordance with international rules and standards.
The analysis of information reported to UIF-AR resulted in the identification of possible criminal actions conducted by a number of Lebanese nationals in Argentine territory. This information, together with information provided by foreign sources, allowed UIF- AR to gather sufficient elements of conviction to suspect that they might be involved in money laundering and terrorist financing.
The people involved would be part of an organization called "Barakat Clan," led by Assad Ahmad BARAKAT, who would be closely linked to Hezbollah’s leadership, with operations headquartered from the former Galería Page (now called Galería Uniamérica) located in Ciudad del Este (Paraguay). The Clan would be allegedly involved in the falsification of money and documents, extortion, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, money laundering and terrorist financing. Regarding the latter, it is suspected that the Barakat Clan would raise funds for the Lebanese organization, Hezbollah.
Assad Ahmad BARAKAT, along with other people that would have operated at the Tri-Border area, has been designated as terrorist by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), under the Department of the Treasury of the United States, which implies that his assets are frozen and he is unable to operate financially in the USA.
UIF-AR is grateful for the cooperation provided by the U.S. government, and especially by the U.S. FIU (FinCEN), under the leadership of its Director, Kenneth Blanco. The strategic with the United States in the fight against illicit finance strengthens our efforts at the local level and contributes to the protection of global peace and security.
According to the information gathered, Assad Ahmad BARAKAT is not only closely linked to Hezbollah’s leaders, but he has also worked very closely with numerous Islamic extremists at the Tri-Border Area and has been indicated as Hezbollah’ secretary-treasurer for a prolonged period of time, bringing contributions to Lebanon for that organization.
Specifically, UIF-AR identified that at least 14 (fourteen) people linked to the aforementioned Clan had crossed the border (into/out of our country) on several occasions (mainly through the Tancredo Neves International Bridge, located in the province of Misiones). Once in Argentina, the members of the Clan would have collected winnings for an amount over USD 10,000,000 (ten million US dollars) at a casino in Puerto Iguazú, without declaring such amount when crossing the border.
The analysis tasks carried out by UIF-AR, in cooperation with its foreign counterparts, would provide a clear suspicion on the illicit origin of the funds that entered Argentina, with the strong hypothesis that, once out of the country, such funds would be have been transferred by the Clan to Hezbollah.
Finally, UIF-AR would like to strengthen the importance of the measure adopted for the protection of the integrity of the Argentine economic and financial order and to reinforce its strong determination to continue cooperating internationally in the fight against international terrorism, in accordance with local rules and commitments assumed by the country through conventions and international standards.