18 March 2017
BEIRUT: A Lebanese judge charged 18 suspects Friday with belonging to Daesh (ISIS) and forming a network to transfer money from Lebanon to neighboring countries at the behest of the militant group. Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr referred the cases of the 18 suspects to Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghayda, and requested that arrest warrants be issued against them. Of the 18 suspects, 15 were Syrian and one was Palestinian.
A judicial source told The Daily Star that the network had allegedly transferred some $19.3 million to Daesh cells in Syria and Iraq since 2014. The suspects had rented money-exchange shops in Lebanon, paying the Lebanese shopowners large sums of cash for the use of their official licenses, according to the source.
The transactions out of Lebanon reportedly varied in value between $10,000 and $100,000.
“A money-exchange shop in Beirut would transfer the money to a similar money exchange shop in Turkey or Iraq. If $100,000 was sent, for example, the recipient would pass on $80,000 to the militant organization and [then] take the rest in commission,” a statement from the judicial source read.
The source said that most of the funds were sent to Daesh strongholds in Syria’s Raqqa, Aleppo, Palmyra and Qalamoun, as well as Iraq’s Mosul.
“The large sums of money sent to the group in Qalamoun were transferred in bags, and handed to officials on the outskirts of the northeastern Lebanese border town of Arsal,” the statement read.
Investigations have not yet proved that any Lebanese nationals were linked to the transfers.
Nevertheless, the judicial source told The Daily Star that Lebanese money exchangers “hold preliminary responsibility for renting their shops and licenses to the Syrians.”
Six Lebanese nationals were arrested, questioned and then released earlier this month after General Security clamped down on money-exchange shops in an attempt to curb the suspected financing of terror organizations.
The decision to conduct the raids was made by Military Court Judge Dani Zaani.
Those detained were released on the condition that they would not leave the country. They also gave General Security their permanent addresses and phone numbers.
A delegation headed by Money Exchange Union chief Elias Srour met with General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim last week to discuss the recent raids. During the meeting, Ibrahim highlighted the efforts exerted by the directorate to combat terrorism, particularly the financing of militant organizations, according to a statement issued by General Security.
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