Posted: Thursday, July 20, 2017. 8:26 a.m. CST.
By BBN Staff: Belizean businessman John Zabaneh is challenging a sanction imposed by the United States Treasury Department, over an alleged connection to Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
Zabaneh, represented by US lawyer Erich Ferrari, filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in D.C. Federal Court. The US Treasury Department had designated Zabaneh as a narcotics trafficker in 2012 which, under Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, barred him from conducting any financial or commercial transactions with anyone in the U.S. and also forced him to give up any property and assets he had in the U.S..
In his lawsuit, Zabaneh alleges that the designation was “arbitrary and capricious” and also in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. He is asking the court to revoke his designation and to “consider other forms of relief that are deemed just and proper.”
His lawsuit explained that the designation caused companies outside the U.S. not to work with him because of the blacklisting. The damage to his reputation and inability to conduct business in the US caused the deterioration of his farm, ultimately resulting in him having to close his banana and citrus farms, putting hundreds of employees out of a job and having a direct impact on Belize’s economy.
“Not only have the welfare of [Zabaneh] and his family been gravely prejudiced since his August 7, 2012 designation but on a much broader scale, so has the welfare of the hundreds of persons in Belize who lost their jobs as a collateral consequence of the designation action,” the lawsuit said.
Zabaneh’s submission also said that the designation caused him self and his family to “experience onerous obstacles in their day-to-day lives.”
In 2012, the Treasury Department issued a statement saying that Zabaneh, along with his nephew, Dion Zabaneh, and an associate, Daniel Moreno played “a prominent role” in Guzmán’s drug trafficking organizations.
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