A Lebanese military court on Friday charged 18 people, most of them Syrians, with transferring more than $19 million from Lebanon to the Islamic State (IS) militant group, a judicial source said.
Fifteen Syrians, one Palestinian and two others were accused of belonging to IS, creating a money smuggling network and transferring money out of Lebanon for IS’s benefit, the source said.
The network had transferred $19,300,000 to IS in Syria and Iraq from 2014 until now.
The suspects were referred to a military investigator for further questioning, the source added.
Lebanese security forces in early March raided currency exchange offices and money transfer companies on suspicion they had sent huge sums of money to IS.
The judicial source said the accused “rented currency exchange offices from Lebanese nationals at very attractive prices and began transferring money to IS in Turkey, Iraq, and Syria.”
“Each transfer was valued between $10,000 and $100,000… Most of the money would eventually reach IS’s stronghold in Mosul in Iraq, or in Raqa, Aleppo, Palmyra, or Qalamun in Syria,” he said.
While money to IS in Iraq was transferred directly, the wires to Syria always went through Turkey first.
Lebanon has been heavily impacted by the war in neighbouring Syria since it erupted in March 2011.
Security forces have on several occasions arrested suspected IS members, including in February when two men were detained on suspicion of planning an attack in central Beirut.
Lebanon’s central bank imposes strict rules on financial institutions intended to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing, including caps on the amount that can be transferred overseas without additional supporting paperwork.