A new loophole was uncovered in Gebran Bassil’s packed political career.
Earlier this week, the federal executive department of the United States government, tasked with the enforcement of federal law and administration of justice in the U.S., published indictments initially filed between 2016 and 2019 against three Lebanese men.
The men, originally from Batroun, were charged with smuggling weapons from the United States to Lebanon and with income tax evasion usually by deliberately making a false declaration or no declaration to tax authorities.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is still seeking information leading to the arrest of George Nakhle Ajaltouni and Nakhle Nader, believed to be a co-owner of Cheers Cousin Mike, a bar in Batroun, Lebanon.
The third person involved in this case is Jean Youssef Issa, who was recently arrested by the US authorities.
The FBI report accuses George Nakhle Ajaltouni of the following alleged crimes: “Conspiracy to Commit Smuggling Goods from the United States and Illegal Shipment of Firearms, Smuggling Goods from the United States, Unlawful Delivery of Firearms to Common Carrier, Violation of Control of Arms Exports and Imports, Unlicensed Dealing in Firearms, and Naturalization Fraud.”
George Nakhle Ajaltouni is wanted for his alleged participation in a conspiracy to smuggle and illegally ship large quantities of firearms hidden in compartments inside vehicles from the United States to Lebanon from May 2011 to September 2014.
Over the course of multiple years, Ajaltouni purchased pistols and rifles in cash at various gun shows and from private individuals in Ohio.
After accumulating a large number of firearms, Ajaltouni would then purchase a used vehicle and allegedly hide firearms inside the doors and body panels of the vehicle.
The vehicles were then shipped from the United States to Beirut.
Once the vehicle arrived in Lebanon, the firearms were removed and the vehicle was sold for profit.
On March 29, 2016, a federal arrest warrant was issued for Ajaltouni in the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Cleveland, after he was charged with “Conspiracy to Commit Smuggling Goods from the United States and Illegal Shipment of Firearms” in addition to other weapons-related crimes.
In a related matter, a federal arrest warrant was issued for Ajaltouni on November 9, 2018, in the above-mentioned District Court after he was charged with Naturalization Fraud for allegedly obtaining naturalization and citizenship in 2009 that he was not entitled to or eligible to receive.
Ajaltouni was a member of the security team of the former Foreign Minister of Lebanon, Gebran Bassil, the FBI report stated.
MP Gebran Bassil didn’t comment on the FBI report as of yet. It’s noteworthy that Bassil is under several US sanctions for his party’s alliance with Hezbollah.
The other man, Nakhle Nader, is believed to be a co-owner of Cheers Cousin Mike, a bar in Batroun. He is wanted on four counts of income tax evasion. He is reported to have a tattoo of Hezbollah’s chief, Hassan Nassrallah, on his abdomen.
According to the FBI, from about October 2013 to September 2016, in the Northern District of Ohio and elsewhere, Nader allegedly attempted to evade paying due income tax by preparing and submitting to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) four false and fraudulent Individual Income Tax Returns for the calendar years 2012 through 2015.
During that time, Nader owned and managed the daily operations of three liquor stores in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, but placed the legal ownership of the businesses in the names of various relatives as nominees.
Nader allegedly withheld information from his tax preparer regarding several sources of additional income, debt forgiveness received in 2013, and his repeated use of business monies to pay for personal expenses.
He also allegedly underreported his personal income resulting in taxes being due to the IRS.
On September 26, 2019, a federal arrest warrant was issued for Nader in the Northern District of Ohio, after he was charged with income tax evasion.