Mohammed Fayez Barakat

Mohammed Fayez Barakat is a U.S.-designated Hezbollah fundraiser operating in the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of South America––the region that straddles the borders of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina. He has hosted fundraisers for Hezbollah in the region and arranged the transfer of funds to the group. Barkat has also provided direct financial support to his cousin, U.S.-designated Assad Ahmad Barakat.Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, “Examining the Effectiveness of the Kingpin Designation Act in the Western Hemisphere,” Congressional Testimony: Foundation for Defense of Democracies, November 8, 2017, http://docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA07/20171108/106606/HHRG-115-FA07-Wstate-OttolenghiE-20171108.pdf. Mohammed Fayez Barakat was designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the U.S. Department of the Treasury on December 6, 2006.“Treasury Targets Hizballah Fundraising Network in the Triple Frontier of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 6, 2006, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/hp190.aspx. According to the designation, he held both Lebanese and Paraguayan citizenship at the time.“Recent OFAC Actions,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 6, 2006, https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/pages/20061206.aspx.

In March 2007, Barakat was captured by an undetermined group of individuals. He was released 20 days later after his friends and family reportedly paid his captors a sum of $150,000. In a press conference that he held at his apartment after his release, Barakat claimed that he had spent ten days in captivity in Brazil and an additional ten in Paraguay. He claimed that he was transferred to Paraguay in the trunk of a vehicle, which was completely undetected by border authorities from either country.“Captores liberan a Barakat tras cobrar rescate de 150.000 dólares,” ABC Color (Asunción), March 27, 2007, http://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/policiales/captores-liberan-a-barakat-tras-cobrar-rescate-de-150000-dolares-971484.html. In 2008, Barakat was investigated by Paraguayan authorities for money laundering related to his company, Big Boss International Import Export, which is located inside the U.S-designated Shopping Uniamérica shopping center (previously known as Galería Page) in Ciudad del Este.Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, “Examining the Effectiveness of the Kingpin Designation Act in the Western Hemisphere,” Congressional Testimony: Foundation for Defense of Democracies, November 8, 2017, http://docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA07/20171108/106606/HHRG-115-FA07-Wstate-OttolenghiE-20171108.pdf; “Seprelad confirma operaciones sospechosas de empresario libanés,” ABC Color (Asunción), November 30, 2008, http://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/policiales/seprelad-confirma-operaciones-sospechosas-de-empresario-libanes-1125542.html. Barakat reportedly transferred a sum of $88,480 through the Paraguayan bank Banco Amambay on December 3, 2005, and another sum of $71,000 on March 8, 2006.“Seprelad confirma operaciones sospechosas de empresario libanés,” ABC Color (Asunción), November 30, 2008, http://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/policiales/seprelad-confirma-operaciones-sospechosas-de-empresario-libanes-1125542.html. Nonetheless, he was never prosecuted and continued to freely operate Big Boss International Import Export as of 2017, according to Paraguayan official records.Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, “Examining the Effectiveness of the Kingpin Designation Act in the Western Hemisphere,” Congressional Testimony: Foundation for Defense of Democracies, November 8, 2017, http://docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA07/20171108/106606/HHRG-115-FA07-Wstate-OttolenghiE-20171108.pdf. In November 2016, he reportedly attended a reception hosted by the Lebanese embassy in Asunción as an honored guest.Emanuele Ottolenghi, John Hannah, “To Combat Illegal Immigration, Trump Should Target Latin America’s Hezbollah-Narco Nexus,” Foreign Policy, December 23, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/12/23/to-combat-illegal-immigration-trump-should-target-latin-americas-hezbollah-nacro-nexus/. According to a congressional testimony from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Barakat remains an active and “influential figure” in the Lebanese community of Paraguay.Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, “Examining the Effectiveness of the Kingpin Designation Act in the Western Hemisphere,” Congressional Testimony: Foundation for Defense of Democracies, November 8, 2017, http://docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA07/20171108/106606/HHRG-115-FA07-Wstate-OttolenghiE-20171108.pdf.

 
United States

The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated “Mohammad Fayez Barakat” as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 on December 6, 2006.“Treasury Targets Hizballah Fundraising Network in the Triple Frontier of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 6, 2006, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/hp190.aspx.

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