Lebanese lawyer accuses Hezbollah of tax evasion, money laundering

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A Lebanese lawyer has filed a lawsuit against Hezbollah accusing the group of tax evasion, customs duty evasion and money laundering.

The lawsuit presented by Majd Harb to Financial State Prosecutor Ali comes at a time when Lebanon teeters on the verge of economic collapse, with the value of its local currency, the Lebanese Lira, decreasing fourfold on the black market.

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Harb explained that saving Lebanon’s crumbling economy was one of his main motivations in presenting the lawsuit.

“We have filed this lawsuit because of the deteriorating economic situation and the Lebanese state’s fall into bankruptcy,” he told Al Arabiya.

Hezbollah has long been accused of money laundering using various methods, such as drug trafficking. Many believe that the Iranian-backed group uses the Port of Beirut for smuggling routes in and out of Lebanon.

But recently, Hezbollah’s illegal smuggling routes between Lebanon and Syria have come under more intense fire.

Read also: Lebanon vows crackdown on smuggling into Syria

In May, the Lebanese government ordered crackdowns on all illegal trade across the border, in attempt to scrape back a little of the state revenue lost in illegal trade.

At the time, Lebanese Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad vowed to seize “all goods illegally entering or leaving Lebanon.”

Harb hopes that this new approach will be able to solve an old problem.

“The news is a new approach to a problem we have long suffered from: tax evasion and money laundering… What we are trying to do is not bold in the slightest – but it has reached the point where simply applying the law is bold,” he continued.

Harb pointed out that the Lebanese law clearly states that anybody receiving a monthly salary from any organisation or party must pay taxes to the Lebanese state. Hezbollah, he continued, does not pay these taxes, even though the party openly admits that party members receive pensions and wages. Money for party salaries comes from sources outside of Lebanon.

Hezbollah's annual budget is estimated to be around $1 billion, of which half is paid in social assistance and salaries. Harb believes that the party is depriving the state of hundreds of millions of dollars – and that the time has come to harness these revenues to prop up a nation in freefall.

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