October 8, 2021 | Policy Brief

Florida Businessman Indicted in Nader Mohamad Farhat’s Money Laundering Case

October 8, 2021 | Policy Brief

Florida Businessman Indicted in Nader Mohamad Farhat’s Money Laundering Case

Florida’s Southern District Court in Miami indicted Florida businessman Elias Daher last week on money laundering charges, making him a co-defendant in the Mohamad Nader Farhat money laundering case. U.S. prosecution of Farhat’s alleged network, part of which is being tried separately in New York, promises to reveal the intricacies and magnitude of trade-based money laundering in the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay — including the possible role of Lebanese Hezbollah.

Farhat used to run a money-exchange business out of two tiny storefronts in Ciudad del Este, on the TBA’s Paraguayan side. Despite the storefronts’ unassuming size, in criminal complaints filed for this case, investigators describe him as “the leader of an extensive money laundering organization.” Paraguayan authorities arrested Farhat at his home in May 2018 and, after a year-long legal battle, extradited him to Miami to face money laundering charges. He is also a co-defendant in two other money laundering cases in the Eastern District of New York.

Although the Farhat investigation is not formally a Hezbollah terror-finance case, U.S. officials have referred to Farhat as a “Hezbollah supporter.” Court documents describe Farhat as a “known money launderer for narcotics organizations and other illicit organizations.” According to a Department of Justice press release, the Farhat network participated in “an international money laundering scheme relying on the complexities of global trade, and the use of … businesses here in New York and in Florida, to launder millions of dollars for transnational drug traffickers and other bad actors.”

During their raids on Farhat’s offices in Ciudad del Este, investigators seized a hard drive containing terabytes of data — much more than a typical personal computer can store. Court documents indicate that the trove of information included a chart “that purportedly shows how the money -laundering scheme was organized.” With that chart in hand, investigators could confirm how Hezbollah’s money laundering schemes operate in the United States, and could expand Farhat’s initial indictment to include his suspected associates.

Key to Hezbollah operations are dozens if not hundreds of small import-export companies that launder money under cover of trade, fraudulent transactions, and cash deposits. To move money generated by illicit activities such as drug trafficking, these companies issue false invoices for nonexistent transactions, underprice or overprice merchandise they trade, and make multiple cash deposits under $10,000. Trade often includes triangulating among Far East commodities providers, U.S. intermediaries, and TBA businesses, as exemplified by the case of Ali Kassir, convicted in Florida in 2019 on similar charges, where the U.S. companies acted as pass-throughs for trade transactions between the Far East and the TBA.

Since Farhat’s extradition to Miami in June 2019, prosecutors have also indicted Diya Salame — a fellow Floridian and a social media contact of Daher — and Houssam Hachem, from Dearborn, Michigan, as accomplices in the Farhat case. Last week it was Daher’s turn. According to the new indictment, released on September 30, Daher, like his co-defendants, allegedly laundered proceeds from illicit activities and used his companies as an unlicensed money transmitting business — utilizing fraudulent commercial transactions to move ill-gotten gains.

Farhat, Daher, Hachem, and Salame stand trial on November 8. Those concerned with U.S. vulnerability to illicit financial schemes and Hezbollah’s malign activities should watch this case closely.

Emanuele Ottolenghi is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where he also contributes to FDD’s Center on Economic and Financial Power (CEFP) and Iran Program. For more analysis from Emanuele, CEFP, and the Iran Program, please subscribe HERE. Follow Emanuele on Twitter @eottolenghi. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and @FDD_CEFP and @FDD_Iran. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran in Latin America Sanctions and Illicit Finance