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FBI charges former Lebanese MP's ex-bodyguard with gun smuggling

George Ajaltouni allegedly shipped hundreds of firearms from Ohio to Lebanon
Lebanese member of parliament Gebran Bassil (R) arrives to attend the first session of the newly-elected assembly at its headquarters in the capital Beirut, on 31 May 2022 (AFP)

A bodyguard of Gebran Bassil, the leader of Lebanon's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and son-in-law of President Michel Aoun, has been charged by the FBI for gun smuggling.

George Ajaltouni allegedly purchased weapons at gun shows and dealerships in Ohio and shipped them to Lebanon by hiding them in secret compartments in modified cars, according to an indictment reviewed by Middle East Eye.

Between May 2011 and September 2014, Ajaltouni worked with another Lebanese man, Jean Youssef Issa, to send hundreds of firearms, mainly handguns, to Lebanon.

Issa was recently arrested after a red notice was issued by Interpol. Ajaltouni, 47, is currently believed to be residing in Batroun, Lebanon, which is also the hometown of Bassil, who served as foreign minister from 2014 to 2020.

The FBI has also released an indictment for Nakhle “Mike” Nader, a former Cleveland, Ohio, resident and acquaintance of Ajaltouni. Nader has been charged with four counts of income tax evasion related to various businesses he owned and operated in Ohio.

Mr Ajaltouni is also charged with naturalisation fraud after obtaining naturalisation and US citizenship in 2009 that he was not entitled to nor eligible to receive, according to the indictment.

The indictments were filed between 2016 and 2019 but were unsealed on Tuesday. Shortly after their release, pictures appeared online of Bassil and Ajaltouni together at a table having drinks.

A second image shows Ajaltouni shaking hands with Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

Bassil has long been dogged by corruption allegations and was sanctioned by the US in 2020. Bassil leads the FPM, Lebanon's largest Christian political party, which is aligned with Hezbollah.

In the past, Lebanon has been reluctant to extradite its citizens. The country is home to Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan Motor Chairman who made a daring escape to his home country from Japan in 2019 after facing charges of financial misconduct.

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