A Lebanese businessman arrested last year with cocaine at Kinshasa International Airport while en-route to Beirut has family and commercial ties to a network the US says helped finance Hezbollah.
On July 21, 2018, a website for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s N’Djili International Airport issued a press release that Mustafa Abu Darwish was detained with a “large package of drugs,” including cocaine, which he said “was intended for his own consumption.”
The statement added that Abu Darwish was a prominent businessman who serves as in a management capacity in the Minocongo, Pain Victoire, and Trans Gazelle companies, which the US later sanctioned in December 2019.
According to the US, the firms are all owned by Saleh Assi, a DRC-based Lebanese businessman who Washington says provides financial support to alleged financial kingpin Adham Tabaja.
“Assi and his companies also engage in tax evasion and money laundering schemes in the DRC that generate illicit profits of tens of millions of dollars per year, a portion of which are transferred to Tabaja in Lebanon,” the US Department of the Treasury said in a press release.
Abu Darwish and Assi are not just business partners, they are also family. Assi’s sister is Abu Darwish’s mother, according to a death notice posted in Al-Akhbar newspaper for Assi’s mother.
Their business partnerships extend from the DRC to Lebanon, where Abu Darwish and Assi hold shares in Inter Aliment SAL Off Shore and Salasko Offshore SAL, both sanctioned by Washington, as well as Amasko Off Shore SAL.
Abu Darwish is a co-owner of food importing company Inassi Group – Middle East SARL along with Assi’s brother, Abd al-Hamid. He also holds shares in Khojah Real Estate SAL along with Assi’s wife and Tony Saab, who was sanctioned by the US for illicitly moving money from DRC to Lebanon.
Congolese press reports indicate that Abu Darwish and Assi’s companies in the DRC are part of the Congo Futur conglomerate active in food and diamond trade, which has long been on Washington’s radar for reportedly serving as a Hezbollah front.