Local News

Cary car dealership settles claims of terrorist money laundering

Posted May 21, 2012

— A used-car dealership in Cary agreed Monday to forfeit money in a bank account to the federal government to settle a civil suit that alleged the business was laundering money for the Lebanon-based terror organization Hezbollah.

The government filed the civil asset forfeiture action last December in New York against 30 car dealerships from Michigan to Florida, including Cary Auto Sales, and bank accounts tied to the businesses.

Authorities allege that money was wired from Lebanon to the U.S. to buy used cars. The vehicles were then moved to West Africa and resold, and cash from the sales was mixed with profits from illegal drug distribution and funneled back to Lebanon to fund terrorist activities.

Money Cary dealership forfeits money to settle laundering allegation

The government, which was trying to seize $400 million in assets in the case, lists Hezbollah as the most technically capable terrorist group in the world, with strong ties in Syria and Iran.

Cary Auto Sales was linked to more than 100 suspect wire transfers, totaling $4 million, according to court documents.

The settlement, which dealership attorney Dan Boyce said the government is expected to sign, notes that Cary Auto Sales wasn't directly involved in funneling money to Hezbollah and that there is no suggestion that owner Bassam Hanna was connected to the terrorist group.

As part of the settlement, Hanna will forfeit an undisclosed amount of cash from a BB&T account and will implement anti-money laundering guidelines for future sales.

Boyce said Hanna is relieved to put the allegations behind him and move on.

17 Comments

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  • Alexia May 22, 3:10 p.m.

    "Please! He had more than 100 wire transfers from the same account in Lebanon and he wasn't at all suspicious?" -- seankelly15

    And why should be be suspicious? He sells cars. It's not illegal to sell cars and there are tons of people who sell products all over the globe. This is very routine for anybody conducting international business. Question is, how would he have known the cars were being resold (not illegal) and profits used to fund terrorism (illegal under US law, but entirely outside his control and happening outside the US).

    If you sell cars to somebody in West Africa, that is not illegal.

    People are taking a big leap in assuming he knew about what happened to those products down the line somewhere. Should we also take BB&T's money, because they were a participant in the money laundering? How about the gasoline stations used to fuel those cars? Or the companies who transported the cars? I suspect none of these businesses knew what was ultimately happening to the money.

  • The Fox May 22, 12:05 p.m.

    [The terrorists that have been identified in the Triangle area were right-wing - far from being liberal.]

    You can't use the same American-European political labels on these guys.

  • seankelly15 May 22, 11:29 a.m.

    paulej - Please! He had more than 100 wire transfers from the same account in Lebanon and he wasn't at all suspicious? He knew what was being done and where the cars were going; if he didn't then he simply didn't want to ask any questions.

  • Alexia May 22, 10:02 a.m.

    Why are you guys beating up on the car dealer? As I understood the story, somebody was buying a bunch of cars from him and he was exporting them. From what I can tell, that's the entirety of his involvement. He made a sale that, as far as he knew, was a legitimate sale. Do we know otherwise? I doubt there is more to it, otherwise the Feds would be all to happy to throw him in jail. We are a jail happy country, after all. So, I'm guessing he had no idea cars were being resold in another country and profits (that he never saw) were funding terrorism. How would he know all of that? If he didn't know these things, then the government is going to far in taking away his money. By their logic, any honest business person who merely sells something to somebody who is doing something illegal under US law -- even when that "illegal" activity is not on US soil -- should be punished. Would it not be better for the feds to just inform him and prevent further sales?

  • tightywhitey2 May 22, 9:20 a.m.

    Hanna did not know what that money was for.That sounds familiar must have gotten some advice from John.

  • Tarheel born May 22, 9:09 a.m.

    Bassam isn't forfeiting $4m. He's forfeiting an "undisclosed" amount in an account at BB&T. It may be a $3 bill for all we know. FULL DISCLOSURE!!!

  • Tarheel born May 22, 9:05 a.m.

    How about we just run him out of business.......

  • SaltyOldJarhead May 22, 8:49 a.m.

    Uh, giving up 4 million dollars to "put the allegations behind him" sounds like a backhanded admission of guilt to me. If it were my millions and I was innocent, I'd fight the government like crazy.

    How do we NOT go after every last dime the guy has and then kick him out of the country?!

  • Bartmeister May 22, 8:44 a.m.

    Can't imagine this guy's business selling a lot of cars in the future.

  • sarg863 May 21, 7:40 p.m.

    Boyce said Hanna is relieved to put the allegations behind him and move on.

    He needs to move on alright! I hope no one will do business with him.

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