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Press Release

Two Hezbollah Associates Arrested On Charges Of Conspiring To Launder Narcotics Proceeds And International Arms Trafficking

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
Defendant Iman Kobeissi Charged with Conspiring to Sell Firearms to Members of a Terrorist Organization

Earlier today, Iman Kobeissi, also known as “Iman Kobeissu” and “Iman Kobreissi-Ghadry,” was arraigned at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, on money laundering conspiracy charges and unlicensed firearms dealing conspiracy for laundering funds she believed to be drug money, and for arranging for the sale of thousands of firearms, including military assault rifles, machine guns, and sniper rifles, to criminal groups in Iran and Lebanon, including Hezbollah, a designated terrorist organization. [1]  Kobeissi was arrested yesterday in Atlanta, Georgia.  An indictment was also unsealed today against Joseph Asmar, an alleged Hezbollah associate who is charged with money laundering conspiracy.  Asmar, Kobeissi’s alleged co-conspirator, was arrested in Paris, France, on a provisional arrest warrant issued from the Eastern District of New York.

The charges were announced by Kelly T. Currie, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New Jersey Field Division.

According to court filings, the investigation, a DEA sting operation, determined that between September 2013 and October 2015, the defendants and other Hezbollah-connected associates conspired to conduct monetary transactions to assist individuals, who they believed to be drug traffickers, in concealing their drug money.  In addition to offering to launder narcotics proceeds for a DEA undercover agent posing as a narcotics trafficker, Kobeissi informed him that she had associates in Hezbollah who were seeking to purchase cocaine, weapons, and ammunition.  Asmar, allegedly an attorney with high-level connections at various banks throughout the Middle East and Europe, discussed potential narcotics transactions with the undercover DEA agent and suggested that he could use his connections with Hezbollah to provide security to narcotics shipments.  Kobeissi and Asmar explained that they could arrange for planes from South America laden with multi-ton shipments of cocaine to land safely in Africa as a transit point before the drugs were smuggled to the United States or Europe.

 In a series of recorded conversations, Kobeissi and Asmar discussed their money laundering network that spanned the globe and provided money laundering services to drug traffickers, terrorist organizations, and other criminal groups in Lebanon, Iran, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Benin, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Cypress, and cities across the United States.  Asmar claimed that, with his connections in the financial world, he could launder any sum of illegal money.  During the course of the investigation, undercover agents provided approximately $400,000 in purported drug proceeds to Kobeissi and Asmar, who laundered the money back to the United States in exchange for a commission.  As alleged, the defendants conspired to launder a total of $8 million in illicit funds on behalf of purported South and Central American drug trafficking organizations.

Kobeissi also allegedly arranged to obtain firearms and heavy weapons for her associates in Hezbollah and other independent criminal groups in Iran.  During recorded conversations between Kobeissi and the undercover DEA agent, Kobeissi stated that she had customers in Iran who would like to purchase a variety of firearms and blue prints for “heavy weaponry.”  In one list Kobeissi provided to the undercover agent containing a request for firearms for her Iran-based customer, Kobeissi included an order for more than 1,000 military-style assault rifles, including M200 sniper rifles, M4 carbine rifles, and Objective Individual Combat Weapons, as well as 1,000 Glock handguns.  In another communication, Kobeissi attempted to obtain thousands of handguns for her Hezbollah associates.  In recorded conversations between Kobeissi and the undercover DEA agent, Kobeissi also discussed the potential for obtaining aircraft parts for her customers in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.  In those recordings Kobeissi can be heard stating that they had to hurry and obtain the aircraft parts while there were still sanctions against Iran so they could earn additional money for smuggling in the sanctioned parts.

Kobeissi was arrested on October 8, 2015, following a meeting in Atlanta with a criminal associate allegedly discussing the smuggling of blood diamonds out of Africa as a method to launder millions of dollars in drug proceeds.

“This investigation demonstrates the increasingly global reach of criminal organizations and marks an important victory in disrupting a vast money laundering, drug trafficking, and international arms trafficking network that spanned multiple continents and attempted to provide a pipeline of dangerous weapons to a designated terrorist organization,” stated Acting United States Attorney Currie.  “Through our partnerships with law enforcement agencies around the world, we will continue to target and dismantle transnational criminal organizations.”  Mr. Currie thanked the Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs; DEA New Jersey Field Division; DEA Atlanta Field Office; and DEA France Country Office for their invaluable assistance.

DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Kotowski said, “As alleged, this investigation shows the true relationship between narcotics trafficking and terrorist organizations.  There isn’t any part of the world that the men and women of DEA would not go to track down such criminals.  Today, the world is a little bit safer because of the arrest of these two individuals.”

Kobeissi was arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn and remanded without bail.

The charges announced today are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Steven L. Tiscione and Gina M. Parlovecchio are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendants:

Iman Kobeissi
Age:  50
Beirut, Lebanon

Joseph Asmar
Age:  42
Beirut, Lebanon

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 15-CR-491 (ENV); 15-M-962


[1] Hezbollah has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States Department of State since 1995.

Updated September 1, 2016

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
National Security