US charges three men for smuggling weapons to Lebanon, tax evasion

The FBI said one of the men has a tattoo of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.

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The US has charged two men from Ohio, now believed to be living in Lebanon, for their roles in a scheme to smuggle and illegally ship firearms from Cleveland to Lebanon, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

A third suspect was recently arrested pursuant to a Red Notice issued by Interpol, according to the statement.

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George Nakhle Ajaltouni, 47, Jean Youssef Issa, 48 and Mike Nakhle “Mike” Nader, 51, were all named in the indictments that were unsealed in federal court.

Ajaltouni and Issa have been charged with smuggling weapons to Lebanon from the US, and Nader is accused in a separate indictment of income tax evasion.

The FBI is looking for information on the whereabouts of Ajaltouni and Nakhle. They are believed to be living near the northern city of Batroun, a stronghold of former Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil. The US previously sanctioned Bassil for corruption and his close ties with Hezbollah.

The FBI said Nader has a tattoo of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.

It is believed that Ajaltouni and Issa would purchase weapons from federal and private firearms dealers and then smuggle them to Lebanon in cars shipped by sea.

“Ajaltouni and Issa would then travel between Cleveland and Beirut to ensure the smuggled weapons arrived,” the Justice Department said.

Ajaltouni has also been charged with “naturalization fraud” after obtaining US citizenship in 2009 that he was not entitled to nor eligible to receive, the Justice Department said.

While the individuals mentioned above have been charged, an indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. “The defendants are entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” the Justice Department said.

Read more: US energy advisor expected in Beirut for Lebanon-Israel maritime talks

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