(CNN Spanish) – Paraguayan authorities arrested Kassem Mohamad Hijazi, a Brazilian citizen of Lebanese origin residing in the country on Tuesday. The operation took place in Ciudad del Este, which is part of the so-called Triple Border, made up of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil.
According to a press conference given by the Prosecutor’s Office and the Anti-Drug Secretary, Hijazi allegedly led a network dedicated to laundering money from drug trafficking and other crimes.
His lawyer Enrique Giménez told the press that his client is “innocent of all charges and that he only works in commerce and that he is not linked to money laundering.” He added that Hijazi “belongs to a well-known family of Lebanese origin living in Ciudad del Este and his caste was one of the first litters of immigrants settled in the border region.”
After the arrest, Hijazi was transferred to Asunción by personnel from the National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD) in an aircraft of the Paraguayan Air Force, where he will be detained, according to the authorities, awaiting an extradition process to the United States.
Prosecutor Manuel Doldán maintained that the arrest was made at the request of the US justice system for alleged money laundering. Doldán added that this request from the US justice will be processed expeditiously, in order to comply with the international cooperation requested by the US to the Public Ministry of Paraguay.
Although the prosecutor Marcelo Pecci said that he cannot comment on the investigation, he said that it has been going on for two years and is still ongoing. Pecci added that “the detainee is an objective of high strategic value for the United States, which is why international cooperation actions are being combined.”
The US embassy in Paraguay issued a statement stating that “The United States is committed to supporting Paraguay’s efforts to combat corruption and promote accountability for those who undermine government institutions.”
The statement adds that with this the White House tries to demonstrate its “continuous efforts to impose consequences on corrupt actors and protect the financial system of the United States from abuses. Taken in coordination with the Anti-Drug Administration and the Department of National Security, these actions represent an effort by the entire government to combat corruption in the Triple Border Area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay ”.
The US request, which had the cooperation of Paraguayan authorities, is based on Executive Order 13,818 that seeks to implement the Global Magnitsky Law on Human Rights Responsibility and “targets the perpetrators of serious abuses against human rights and corruption around the world ”.