Terror organization Hezbollah has long been known to be working with a major Colombian drug cartel to traffic drugs to Europe and launder money through Lebanon, which is then used to finance its terror operations.
The Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror organization’s finance operations are thriving across Latin America, as it continues its heavy drug trafficking, US lawmakers were told last week.
Former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) operations chief Michael Braun said Hezbollah is “moving [multiple] tons of cocaine” from South America to Europe and has developed “the most sophisticated money laundering scheme or schemes that we have ever witnessed,” the Washington Times reported.
The agency announced in February that it had arrested several Hezbollah operatives accused of working with a major Colombian drug cartel to traffic drugs to Europe and launder money through Lebanon, which is used to finance its terror operations. Those arrests come against a backdrop of rising fears in Washington about smuggling connections between Middle East terrorist groups and the Western Hemisphere.
Hezbollah has “metastasized into a hydra with international connections that the likes of [the Islamic State] and groups like al Qaeda could only hope to have,” Braun told the House Financial Services Committee.
Adding to concerns about security threats from Central and South America, intelligence reports have also tracked how smugglers managed to sneak illegal immigrants and potential terrorists from the Middle Eastern and South Asia straight to the doorstep of the US — including helping one Afghan who US authorities say was part of an attack plot in North America.
Immigration officials identified at least a dozen Middle Eastern men smuggled into the Western Hemisphere by a Brazilian-based network that connected them with Mexicans who guided them to the US border, according to internal government documents reviewed this month by The Washington Times.
Those smuggled included Palestinians, Pakistanis and the Afghan man who Homeland Security officials said had family ties to the Taliban and was “involved in a plot to conduct an attack in the U.S. and/or Canada.”
Concerns about Hezbollah’s activities in Latin America have surged the DEA’s announcement in February that top operatives from the group’s so-called Business Affairs Component, or BAC, “have established business relationships” with South American drug cartels such as the Colombia-based Oficina de Envigado, a crime syndicate “responsible for supplying large quantities of cocaine to the European and United States drug markets.”
The DEA said seven countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Belgium, were involved in an ongoing investigation.
Officials said the most significant arrest was of Mohamad Noureddine, whom the DEA accused of being a Lebanese money launderer for Hezbollah.
President Obama signed the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act last year, authorizing a range of actions, including sanctions, to block Hezbollah’s ability to fund itself.