US Treasury sanctions 2 Lebanese exchanges houses it says launder drug money for Hezbollah

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Treasury Department is putting sanctions on two Lebanese exchange houses it says laundered drug money to support the militant Hezbollah.

Officials named Kassem Rmeiti & Co. for Exchange and Halawi Exchange Co. as “institutions of primary money laundering concern” under a section of the Patriot Act.

Tuesday’s action is the first time the provision of the law has been used against a financial institution that was not a bank.

David S. Cohen, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, says the Joumaa narcotics network turned to the two exchanges for money laundering after Treasury acted against the Lebanese Canadian Bank in 2011.