WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. government announced Wednesday it has targeted a Lebanon-based drug trafficking ring.
The cocaine-smuggling organization allegedly run by Ayman Joumaa has been labeled as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers, which means U.S. Treasury agents can take steps to freeze assets and apply other financial pressures to companies believed to be fronts for the ring's international smuggling operations.
The designation was announced by the Drug Enforcement Agency as Lebanon grapples with ongoing political turmoil sparked by the growing prominence of Hezbollah in the nation's Parliament. The DEA did not reveal any links between the reputed drug kingpin and the country's political factions.
Joumaa allegedly controls multi-ton shipments of cocaine from South America that is sold in the Middle East and Europe. An estimated $200 million per month in sales proceeds is allegedly laundered through Lebanese currency exchanges and other channels, the DEA said.
The DEA said in a release Joumaa, nine other individuals and 19 companies operating in Lebanon, Africa and South America were covered in the special designation, which is part of the U.S. Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
Jan. 26, 2011