The federal government is trying to seize $24 million from a Birmingham car dealership, money that prosecutors say was part of a Hezbollah-controlled money laundering scheme, according to federal court records.
World Auto Sales on Green Springs Highway and 29 other dealerships nationwide received millions of dollars in overseas wire transfers over the course of about four years to buy used cars and ship the vehicles to Africa, according to a civil complaint filed on Dec. 15 by federal prosecutors in New York.
The government contends Hezbollah backers laundered the organization’s drug trafficking money by wiring money to U.S. auto dealers to purchase the cars. The cars were sold by other Hezbollah backers in Africa, court records show.
Federal court records show World Auto Sales received nearly $320,000 in three wire transfers from Hassan Exchange Company and Ellissa Holding and about $5.8 million through 51 transfers from Fadi Star, a Benin shipping company, and its owner, Mohammad Hammoud.
World Auto Sales also had 436 other wire transfers, a total of about $18 million, that the government is also seeking to seize, the complaint states. The complaint stated from 2007 until early 2011, Fadi Star and its owners wired $11.4 million to the U.S. to buy and ship cars. Hammoud is described in the complaint as a Hezbollah supporter
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