Lebanese national accused of laundering drug money for Hezbollah extradited from Cyprus

Ghassan Diab was extradited from Cyprus to the US for 2016 money laundering charges

A supporter of Hezbollah carries his party flag during a protest against the visit of Commander of the US Army Central Command, Kenneth Franklin McKenzie to Lebanon at the highway of Rafic Hariri international airport in Beirut, Lebanon, 08 July 2020 EPA
A supporter of Hezbollah carries his party flag during a protest against the visit of Commander of the US Army Central Command, Kenneth Franklin McKenzie to Lebanon at the highway of Rafic Hariri international airport in Beirut, Lebanon, 08 July 2020 EPA

A Lebanese national accused of laundering drug money for Hezbollah has been extradited from Cyprus to the United States to face a range of charges dating back to 2016.

Ghassan Diab, 37, arrived in Miami, Florida on Friday where he is charged with a number of felonies under the state’s laws including two counts of money laundering over $100,000.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office identified Mr Diab as an alleged Hezbollah associate when the charges against him were announced in October 2016.

His arrest warrant in the United States alleged Mr Diab was related to a senior member of the Lebanese militant group.

According to US media, the case against him can be traced back to the international drug-smuggling hub of Medellin in Colombia where Mr Diab’s brother-in-law, Mohammad Ahmad Ammar, ran an operation to launder drug money.

A view of the popular Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida; the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office identified Diab as an alleged Hezbollah associated when the charges against him were announced in October 2016. EPA
A view of the popular Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida; the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office identified Diab as an alleged Hezbollah associated when the charges against him were announced in October 2016. EPA

Ammar was subsequently convicted in Miami of one count of money laundering in excess of $100,000 and one count of conspiracy to commit laundering in excess of $100,000 after his arrest in California.

Another of Ammar and Mr Diab’s associates was also arrested in 2016. Mr Diab’s whereabouts were unknown at the time.

Mr Diab was provisionally arrested in Cyprus for purposes of extradition on March 9, 2019, at the Larnaca International Airport upon his arrival from Beirut, Lebanon.

The arrest was based on a request from the United States in accordance with the US-Cyprus Extradition Treaty.

On September 27, 2019, the court in Cyprus found him extraditable to the United States.

A Cypriot national, wanted in Georgia and Arizona for cyber intrusion and extortion, was also extradited at the same time as Mr Diab.

Joshua Polloso Epifaniou, 21, a resident of Nicosia arrived at John F Kennedy Airport in New York on Friday after being extradited from the Cyprus, where he was arrested in February 2018.

“These successful extraditions demonstrate the commitment of the Department of Justice to support local, state and federal law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and our strong working relationship with dedicated foreign partners who assist in apprehending foreign fugitives,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt said

“Thanks to the efforts of our law enforcement partners in Cyprus, Ghassan Diab and Joshua Polloso Epifaniou will now be held accountable in the United States for their alleged crimes.”

A 2012 report by the US Congress said Latin America had “become a money laundering and major fundraising centre” for Hezbollah. The group is a proscribed terror organisation in the United States.

Updated: July 19, 2020 06:56 PM

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