OFAC Levels Kingpin Designations Against Alleged Kingpins And Narco-Traffickers

In its last major action of 2011, the United States Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Lebanese-Colombian nationals Jorge Fadlallah Cheaitelly (“Cheaitelly”) and Mohamad Zouheir El Khansa (“El Khansa”) as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers (SDNTs) due to their alleged role in international money laundering activities involving drug trafficking proceeds.  In addition to these designations, OFAC also designated as Foreign Narcotics Kingpins (SDNTKs) nine other individuals and 28 entities in Colombia, Panama, Lebanon, and Hong Kong with ties to Cheaitelly and El Khansa. As a result of these designations U.S. persons are prohibited from conducting financial or commercial transactions with these designated entities and individuals and any assets that they had under U.S. jurisdiction have been blocked. In making their designation, OFAC relied on information provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the New York City Police Department.

These latest designations target key Colombian members alleged to be tied to the Cheaitelly/El Khansa criminal organization, including Jaime Edery Crivosei, Benny Issa Fawaz and Ali Mohamad Saleh.  Cheaitelly’s key financial associates are also targeted, including his siblings, Jaime Fadlallah Cheaytelli, Guiseppe Ali Cheaitelli Saheli, and Fatima Fadlallath Cheaitilly, and two Lebanon-based associates, Fawaz Mohamad Rahall and Ahmed El Khansa.

In addition to the above, OFAC’s action also targets 28 companies controlled by these individuals in Panama, Colombia and Hong Kong.  Amongst these companies are several money exchange businesses in Panama — Eurocambio, S.A., Euro Exchange Y Financial Commerce, Inc. (a.k.a. Eurex) and General Commerce Overseas, Inc. ­– as well as Junior International S.A., Global Technology Import & Export, S.A. (GTI), and Fedco Import & Export, S.A., and import/export businesses located in Panama’s Colon Free Zone.  Another designated entity, Junior International S.A., is reportedly linked to Ayman Joumaa, who was designated under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act in January 2011. Cheaitelly replaced Ayman Joumaa as director of Junior International S.A. following Joumaa’s designation and operates the company with Joumaa’s brothers who are also designated as narcotics traffickers. Several other companies located in Maicao, Colombia were also designated. These included electronics stores Bodega Electro Giorgio and Almacen Electro Sony Star, general merchandise businesses Family Fedco and Comercial Globanty, and luggage stores Almacen Batul and Comercial Estilo y Moda.  

Readers of this posting might notice that the designations made by OFAC fell into two categories: SDNTs and SDNTKs. The SDNT designation is a designation made pursuant to the Columbia Sanctions program which targets narcotics traffickers operating in Columbia and those who materially assist them. Such a designation is made pursuant to an executive order issued under the authority granted to the President through the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). On the other hand, the SDNTK designation refers to a designation under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act), which provides a separate legislative authority for designation and which can serve as the basis of a designation for any narcotics trafficker or person providing them with material assistance, not just those engaged in narcotics trafficking activities in Columbia.

In the end these sanctions programs are fairly similar on their face, however, requesting a reconsideration of each one can be quite different.

The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in OFAC matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or ferrari@ferrari-legal.com.

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