Owners of some of Austin’s most lucrative nightclubs were dealing in drugs, laundering the money through the clubs then funneling it to a family member with ties to a terrorist group in the Middle East, according to federal authorities.
During bond hearings in federal court in Austin Tuesday, an Internal Revenue Service investigator said Hussein “Mike” Ali Yassine and Mohammed “Steve Austin” Ali Yassine sent money in $2,500 increments to their uncle, Mohammed Ishmael in Lebanon.
The Yassines, their brother, Hadi Ali Yassine and seven business associates were arrested last week on narcotics trafficking, money laundering and firearm charges.
Yassine Enterprises owns nine nightclubs — Pure, Stack, Fuel, Spill, Kiss & Fly, Hyde, Roial, Malaia and Treasure Island. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has temporarily shut down the clubs.
Tuesday Hussein Ali Yassine and Mohammed Ali Yassine were denied bond. Four were granted bond — Hadi Yassine, Marisse “Madi” Marthe Ruales, Amar Thabet Araf and Sami Derder. No decision has been made on bond requests for Nizar “Nino” Hakiki, Karim Faiq, Edgar Orsini and Alejandro Melendrez.
During three hours of testimony, Assistant U. S. Attorney Gregg Sofer questioned Randall Gillette, special agent with the U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency and James Neff, criminal investigator with the Internal Revenue Service.
The agents explained its undercover sting operation in which a confidential source was used to arrange two sales of cocaine between Steve Yassine and Nizar Hakiki. The agents testified the proceeds from the deals were then funneled through Yassine`s nightclubs and Famous Vodka, owned by Hadi Yassine, the third brother.
Neff also stated in the hearing that the business was reporting income of $1 to $2 million when it actually was taking in between $7 and $10 million.
According to testimony, the Texas Comptroller‘s Office has frozen Mike Yassine’s accounts. It was also revealed that he has bank accounts in Switzerland and Lebanon.
Several of the defendants are under investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
- Popular Austin Clubs Shut Down Due To Owners Arrest (dayandadream.com)
- Concerns grow over Hezbollah fundraising in the US (charlotte.news14.com)
- Welcome to Mleeta, Hezbollah’s premier tourist trap [Modern Ruins] (io9.com)
- US adds IMU, IJU operatives to list of global terrorists (longwarjournal.org)
- Congressional Report: Hezbollah has “several thousand” donors in the USA (iamiranaware.wordpress.com)
By Edward Klump – Mar 22, 2012 7:00 PM CT
Energy companies in search of oil riches rivaling the biggest finds from Brazil to Angola are flocking to Texas shale, where new wells have triggered a 230- fold increase in crude output in three years
More than 115 years after a gusher 55 miles (88 kilometers) south of Dallas ushered in Texas’ first oil boom, U.S. producers such as ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil Corp. (MRO) are counting on the Eagle Ford Shale to boost crude output amid a glut-driven slump in natural-gas prices.
Drilling for oil in the brush-covered plains of south Texas is cheaper and less risky than exploration offshore Brazil, the largest oil find in the Western Hemisphere in 30 years, and more profitable than the remote, rougher terrain of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and Montana.
“The Eagle Ford is the top basin we have in the world today,” David Roberts, chief operating officer at Marathon Oil, told analysts and investors on a conference call last month.
Surging production in shale formations has transformed the U.S. energy landscape, flooding the market with gas and boosting domestic oil production by 14 percent from three years ago after dropping by a third in the previous 17 years, according to Energy Department data. After worries of a global oil shortage drove prices to record highs above $140 a barrel in 2008, politicians and industry executives now are discussing the prospect of the U.S. weaning itself from dependence on imports.
Marathon Oil and ConocoPhillips (COP) both plan to double their production in the Eagle Ford this year. EOG Resources Inc. (EOG), based in Houston, calls the Texas shale play its biggest source of growth, and last month boosted its estimated recoverable reserves there by 78 percent.
Oil production in the Eagle Ford jumped almost sevenfold in 2011 to surpass 30 million barrels, still less than Bakken production in North Dakota that exceeded 128 million barrels. This year daily oil production in the Eagle Ford is forecast to expand by 200,000 barrels, roughly the same amount as the Bakken, according to estimates by Wood Mackenzie Ltd. cited by Hill Vaden, an analyst with the industry consultant.
The South Texas oil fields are winning a larger portion of producers’ investment because it’s easier and more profitable to drill there compared to many prospects in the U.S. and in the world. Wells are faster and cheaper to develop, and the formation is located closer to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, lowering transportation costs.
EOG said it costs about $5.5 million per well in the Eagle Ford, compared with more than $8 million per well in the Bakken, because of different well configurations. An offshore Gulf of Mexico well can cost $100 million, said Brian Uhlmer, an analyst at Global Hunter Securities LLC in Houston.
Deep-water wells can take five months or longer to drill, compared to a couple of weeks for a well in the Eagle Ford, said Brian Cain, a spokesman for Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC)
Producers can get a higher price for their Eagle Ford output than they can in the Bakken. Prices for Texas and Louisiana (USCRLLSS) crude this week are as much as about $38 a barrel more than production in the Bakken (USCRLLSS), according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“The economics there are absolutely stellar,” said Danny Brown, a general manager who helps oversee Anadarko’s Eagle Ford operations. Anadarko has said it is considering selling its exploration properties offshore Brazil.
Less Political Risk
Texas provides a more stable investment environment compared to many international projects, said Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates in Houston.
“Clearly, there’s less political risk in Texas than in Libya, let’s say, or Kurdistan,” he said. Marathon Oil last year had output suspended in Libya during unrest in that country.
The Eagle Ford cuts across a 400-mile swath of southern Texas, according to the Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas production in the state. Producers have unlocked the resource using advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which sends jets of water, sand and chemicals underground to break up rock.
Petrohawk Energy Corp., acquired by BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) last year, first drew attention to the Eagle Ford when it announced a gas find in 2008, a year when futures for the fuel in New York averaged more than $8 per million British thermal units.
Expanded use of fracturing, or fracking, across the U.S. caused a surge in gas output that drove prices to a 10-year low this month of $2.204 per million Btu. Meanwhile, crude in New York has climbed 15 percent since the end of 2010 and is trading for about $105 a barrel.
The Eagle Ford will help lead a surge in state drilling permits that’s on pace to reach 25,000 this year, the most since 1985, said Barry Smitherman, the commission’s chairman.
“It’s by far the most sought-after play anywhere — not only in this country, but anywhere around the world,” said Fadel Gheit, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York.
A Sanford C. Bernstein report last August estimated Eagle Ford production would reach 1.2 million barrels of oil equivalent a day in 2015, with 750,000 of that being liquids.
“A long-time oil field axiom is that big fields tend to get bigger over time, and that’s certainly the case here,” EOG Chief Executive Officer Mark Papa told investors during a Feb. 17 conference call. “This continues to be the hottest and highest reinvestment rate-of-return play in North America.”
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- Pioneer Bets On West Texas Shale Oil To Rival Bakken (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Marubeni Buys Eagle Ford Shale Assets (USA) (mb50.wordpress.com)
(Reuters) – Apple Inc is expanding its presence in Texas with a $304 million investment to build a new campus in Austin, which will add 3,600 jobs over the next decade, more than doubling its workforce in the city.
The Cupertino, California, consumer device giant already employs thousands in Austin, whose tasks include handling customer complaints and support.
“Our operations in Austin has grown dramatically over the past decade from less than 1,000 in 2004 to more than 3,500 today,” Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said.
Apple plans to add jobs in customer support, sales and accounting.
The company is receiving an investment of $21 million over 10 years from a state fund and also possible incentives from Austin and Travis County, according to Texas Governor Rick Perry, who announced the news on Friday.
(Reporting By Poornima Gupta; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)