Posts Tagged ‘Lebanon’

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Drug money bust reveals Hezbollah’s control

February 3, 2014

The Australian Crime Commission has foiled an international narco-trafficking and money laundering scheme involving 18 organized groups and 40 separate money laundering operations.  “Project Eligo” has resulted in 105 arrests, 190 criminal charges, and over $500 million in assets seized so far.

Agence France Presse (hat tips to Willauer Prosky and El Grillo) has the highlights of the story:

Australian police crack global money-laundering racket

Sydney — Australian police revealed Thursday they had cracked a major global money-laundering ring with operatives in more than 20 countries and funds syphoned off to groups reported to include Hezbollah.

The Australian Crime Commission said more than Aus$580 million (US$512 million) of drugs and assets had been seized, including Aus$26 million in cash, in a year-long sting codenamed Eligo targeting the offshore laundering of funds generated by outlaw motorcycle gangs, people-smugglers and others.

According to the ACC, the operation had disrupted 18 serious and organised crime groups and singled out 128 individuals of interest in more than 20 countries, tapping information from agencies including the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

The full details of which countries had been involved were not revealed but acting ACC chief Paul Jevtovic said “the reality is that the Middle East and Southeast Asia have featured prominently”…

The Sydney Morning Herald noted that, “It is believed at least one of the ‘exchange houses’ used in the Australian laundering operation delivers a cut from every dollar it launders to Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, whose military wing has been proscribed in Australia as a terrorist group.”

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Jihad: now powered by amphetamines

January 31, 2014

Unlike poppies in Afghanistan, which the Taliban simply taxes on the basis of traditional Islamic law, terrorist organizations in Syria and Lebanon are taking things a step further by taking control the amphetamine trade lock, stock, and barrel.  All’s fair in love and war, especially when the war is against heretics, which is how the Sunnis regard the Alawites in Syria.  And smuggling “Captagon” is netting them $300 million, which is no chump change—it’s 10 times Al Qaeda’s budget at the time of 9/11.  That means plenty of firepower for the revolutionists.  The only upside for Assad is that his Shia sponsors from Hezbollah are in on the trade too.  What a mess.

The information comes from a Time article that was recently republished by AINA (h/t El Grillo):

Are Drugs Funding the Syrian Rebels?

Fifteen days into his job as Lebanon’s top drug-enforcement official, Colonel Ghassan Chams Eddine got a tip-off that something big was going down at the Beirut shipping port this summer. How big? Nearly 5.5 million tablets of a locally produced amphetamine expertly hidden inside an industrial water heater destined for Dubai. His men had to use acetylene torches to remove the white tablets, each embossed with an off-kilter yin-yang symbol and packed into 1,000-piece units in heat-sealed plastic bags. “The boiler was made in Syria, and the way the tablets were hidden, it was clear that they hadn’t been just stuffed inside,” says Chams Eddine. “That unit was formed around the drugs, at the factory.”

A week later, on Aug. 21, Chams Eddine got another tip-off. Six Syrian-made cargo trucks destined for Saudi Arabia from Lebanon were stopped just as they were about to cross the border. Each of the containers’ steel reinforcing ribs concealed a cleverly designed drawer packed with loose pills — 6 million of them in total. A few days later, a Syrian was caught at Beirut’s international airport with 11,000 tablets hidden in pastries. Then two more Syrians destined for Saudi Arabia were stopped at the airport with 8 kg of the stuff in their luggage.

In one month, Lebanese authorities confiscated more than $200 million worth of a potent amphetamine that is almost entirely unheard of in the West. But in the Persian Gulf, Captagon, as the amphetamine is known, is the most sought-after drug on the street, and the conflict in Syria, with its attendant lawlessness, is making it even easier to obtain.

As the war drags on, it is all the more likely that Captagon will take on a significant role funding warring parties in the conflict. The captured cargo trucks were owned by a Sunni Syrian clan long linked to the drug trade that fled the besieged city of Homs last year to set up shop in Lebanon, says Chams Eddine, who suspects that the proceeds may have been used in part to fund anti–Bashar Assad rebels. “They run two or three operations like that, and they can easily get $300 million. That would buy a lot of guns.”

But it’s not just Syrian Sunnis who are involved. Hizballah, the Iranian-funded and Lebanon-based militia that is fighting in Syria on behalf of President Assad, also has a hand in the trade, according to former U.S. Treasury official Matthew Levitt, a fellow at the Washington Institute and author of Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God. “Hizballah has a long history of dabbling in the drug trade to help with funding, and Captagon, with its high profit margins, is to them just another business opportunity,” Levitt says. It’s not yet clear if Captagon finances the war effort directly, he adds, but profits from the trade, like Hizballah’s other criminal activities, help fund the organization, freeing up capacity for efforts elsewhere. A Hizballah security official tells TIME that the organization does not engage in drug trafficking, as the practice is considered sinful in Islam. However, he admits, Hizballah has worked with drug mafias for what he called security operations. “It was never to benefit or fund Hizballah, it was more to collect information. After all, the end justifies the means.”…

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Recommended reading: front charities, ATM bombings, and sanctions violations

January 30, 2014
  • Members of a terror cell that bombed ATM machines across Bahrain have been convicted for detonating explosives and laundering money… more>>
  • Money for training of Islamic militants around the world was routed through Vienna by the Turkish charity IHH, reports a Bosnian newspaper… more>>
  • An Iranian-U.S. dual citizen packed 44 boxes of blueprints and technical specs about the F-35 fighter jet and shipped them off to Iran.  Customs agents weren’t fooled by his shipping label: “House Hold Goods”… more>>
  • Four years after it was revealed that IFCO helped funnel money for George Galloway to Hamas, the IRS might strip IFCO of its tax-exempt status… more>>
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Al Qaeda boss was key financier of Syrian rebels

January 14, 2014

The Saudi commander of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which is Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Lebanon, has been an essential fundraiser for attacks against Alawites in Syria, according to a Reuters article from Jan. 3.  Muhammad al-Majid served as an interlocutor between Gulf donors and anti-Assad militants before being arrested by the Lebanese army in November.  But surely Majid can be replaced by another Saudi—they have unrivaled expertise in bundling donations for jihad.

Al-Qaeda leader held in Lebanon ‘raised funds for anti-Assad militants’

Muhammad al-Majid, whose Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed a double suicide attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut last year, is believed to have been a key fundraiser for militants in Syria

The Saudi leader of an al-Qaeda spin-off group arrested in Lebanon this week was a key fundraiser in the Gulf for militants fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, official and private experts say.

The Lebanese army arrested Muhammad al-Majid, who leads the Lebanon-based Abdullah Azzam Brigades which claimed a double suicide attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut last November.

That attack was part of a spiral of sectarian violence in Lebanon that appears to be a spillover from Syria’s civil war. In the latest incident, a car bomb killed at least five people in a Shi’ite Muslim stronghold in southern Beirut on Thursday.

Laith Alkhouri of Flashpoint Partners, a private group which monitors militant websites for business and government clients, said Majid had “been behind a great deal of financing to the jihadists fighting in Syria.”

U.S. and European officials say that the most militant Sunni factions fighting Assad’s forces, including the Nusrah Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, both aligned with al-Qaeda, are being financed largely by wealthy families in Saudi Arabia and Gulf states.

A U.S. official who declined to be identified said Majid’s arrest was, “at least a temporary setback, but certainly not a death blow, to the Ziad al-Jarrah Battalions, one of the most powerful Sunni terrorist groups in Lebanon.”

“Under Majid’s leadership, the group exported a degree of the sectarian carnage of the Syrian civil war to Lebanon by targeting Iranian and Hizbollah interests. At the same time, this is a faction that has demonstrated its resilience in the past, and Majid’s experienced deputies may well step up to the plate in his absence,” the official said…

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Colombian city a hub for Hezbollah money

January 7, 2014

Lebanese families in Maicao, Colombia, are at the crossroads of a lucrative network of businesses, money launderers, and drug traffickers who send money back to Lebanon to finance Hezbollah, according to a special report from the Miami Herald.

Ali Yalili, a Shia Muslim in Maicao interviewed for the story, told the Herald that Shiites there are “unfairly targeted as financiers of terrorism.”  But evidence from the U.S. Treasury Department strongly demonstrates the important role that Lebanese businessmen and women in Maicao play in filling Hezbollah’s coffers.

Thanks to Sal for sending this over:

Hezbollah financing evolves beyond Colombia’s Muslim communities

By Abraham Mahshie

Special to the Miami Herald

MAICAO, Colombia — Samira Hajj Ahmad flew to Maicaofrom Beirut in 1982 for her honeymoon. She didn’t intend to stay for 31 years. Nor did she expect Hezbollah to follow her.

During her two days of flying to Colombia, war broke out in southern Lebanon, with some of the largest troop movements in her native Beqaa Valley. Israel had invaded southern Lebanon to root out a nascent Shiite extremist group known as Hezbollah that had been using the country as a base from which to attack northern Israel. Her family encouraged her to stay in Maicao, a dusty border town with a free trade zone that is home to Colombia’s largest Muslim population.

Today, Hezbollah is the most powerful political movement in Lebanon — and its influence stretches all the way to Maicao. Each year, millions of dollars of drug money are laundered in Maicao, where some community members openly proclaim their support for Hezbollah. Recent U.S. Treasury Department actions have slowed the flow of cash to terrorist groups, but financiers have fled and new networks have reconstituted that are harder to identify. Meanwhile, the usual suspects — Lebanese descendant Colombians — are tired of taking the blame.

Hajj Ahmad, 49, occasionally reads with shock the Maicao newspaper reports of neighbors blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury Department for financing the terrorist group. Such was the case for a young woman with a pretty face and black hijab or headscarf who lived alone with her sons and tended nearby family shops.

The woman, Fatima Fadlallath Cheaitilly, was cited in a December 2011 Treasury report as a key associate in a criminal network of drug traffickers and money launderers. The family shops were fronts for money laundering, and around the time of the action, U.S. law enforcement sources believe Cheaitilly was dating Hezbollah financier Mohamad Zoubein El Khansa.

Ahmad said she had often spent time with Cheaitilly at parties and functions at the Colombian-Arab school that her children attended. “Never would you think that this woman, as fragile as she was, would be involved in something so monstrous,” she said. “When this came out and they named the people involved, we were left thinking ‘Wow, what happened there?’”

While Ahmad and many of her Sunni friends denounce Hezbollah, many of Maicao’s minority Shiite population are in favor of the organization´s political and military objectives in their homeland.

Lebanese descendant community members may support the group ideologically, while sympathizing money launderers and terrorism financiers funnel cash back to Lebanon to support the group financially.

Ali Yalili, 35, a member of the Shiite community in Maicao, said he believes they are unfairly targeted as financiers of terrorism.

“If you are Shiite, have money and your business is going well, they make your out to be a money launderer, Hezbollah supporter, terrorist and cause you problems,” Yalili said. “Here, no one comes to fight, to be a terrorist, or to kill anyone. People come in search of their daily bread to eat, to live.””

But Many Lebanese descendants also come to Maicao to launder drug money to the tune of millions of dollars per year, according to law enforcement sources. In December 2011, Treasury named five family groups of Lebanese descent and first generation Colombians whose laundering proceeds found their way back to Hezbollah.

The way it works is a money launderer today may work for 5-10 different drug trafficking groups. Those groups in turn pay taxes or fees to terrorist groups to operate in their territories, proliferating terrorism and violence in Colombia and the Middle East. Likewise, sympathizing launderers may make sizable voluntary donations to Hezbollah.

In June 2012, Treasury named former Maicao resident Mohammed Saleh, who is believed to be a leading fundraiser for Hezbollah in Maicao. A prominent Shiite businessman and former Hezbollah fighter, Saleh and his brother Kassem were implicated by the Treasury Department as terrorism financiers. Neighboring shopkeepers on Maicao´s Tenth Street said the two fled overnight after their names and businesses were made public. The brothers remain at large, reportedly hiding in neighboring Venezuela…

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Terror finance news: recommended reading

December 19, 2013
  • Jihad Watch:  Australia: Muslim radicals tried robbing an ATM to fund jihad in Syria
  • Kenneth Rijock:  “How extensive was Hezbollah’s Canadian shopping spree?
  • Israel Matzav:  “Your taxes at work: ‘Cash strapped’ Palestinian Authority gives freed terrorist murderers $50,000 each”

 

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Hezbollah bank fined

July 11, 2013

The fine of $102 million against Lebanese Canadian Bank is far less than the $1.9 billion settlement with HSBC or the $600+ million settlements with ING and Standard Chartered last year.  It also appears that nobody from the bank will ever face prosecution for aiding Hezbollah, and the extradition of one of their big-time money laundering clients, Ayman Joumaa, appears to have stalled.

From Agence France Presse (h/t El Grillo):

US fines ‘Hezbollah’ bank $102 mn for laundering

(AFP) – Jun 25, 2013

WASHINGTON — A Lebanese bank accused of laundering money from drugs and other operations for clients tied to Hezbollah militants agreed Tuesday to pay US authorities $102 million to settle the charges.

Beirut-based Lebanese Canadian Bank was singled out in February 2011 for allegedly moving hundreds of millions of dollars for criminal groups and traffickers operating in Latin America, West Africa and the Middle East.

Some of the customers it served were closely linked to Hezbollah, which Washington has blacklisted as a “terrorist organization.”

US authorities had already taken control of $150 million the bank set aside for a possible penalty as it was being bought in 2011 by another Beirut bank, Societe Generale de Banque au Liban…

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Mosques and “orphans project” help finance Hezbollah from Germany

July 5, 2013

Hundreds of Hezbollah agents in Berlin are using Germany to raise money for their cause according to a new report from the interior ministry.  Since the EU does not officially consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization, law enforcement can’t do much to put a stop to Hezbollah’s financial activities there.

Take special note of the Orphans Project Lebanon, which is described in the report as a channel for Hezbollah’s money.  Exploiting sympathies about orphans is a frequent fundraising tactic used by Islamist terrorist groups.

From the Jerusalem Post (h/t Jihad Watch):

German mosque groups raising funds for Hezbollah

By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT

06/23/2013

BERLIN – The head of Germany’s federal agency for domestic intelligence and the country’s Interior Ministry have recently presented a report showing Hezbollah’s use of German based mosques and their affiliated organizations to raise funds for the terrorist group’s activities in Lebanon.

According to the 2012 report published this month by the domestic intelligence agency, known as the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the terrorist organization finances its activities through “Hezbollah-affiliated mosque associations” and raises funds within the framework of “religious ceremonies” as well as membership contributions.

Dr. Hans-Peter Friedrich, the head of Germany’s Interior Ministry, and Dr. Hans-Georg Maaßen, the relatively new director of the intelligence agency introduced the report several weeks ago in Berlin.

It is unclear from the report if the Hezbollah funds in Germany are funneled to aid the terrorist group’s efforts in Syria to support the regime of President Bashar Assad.

The report showed a steady presence of Hezbollah members in the Federal Republic, 950 members, the same figure for 2011. The intelligence agency’s 2010 report showed the number of Hezbollah members to be 900.

The 381-page 2012 intelligence report lists the Hezbollah attack on Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, under the category of Islamic terrorism.

Although the Bulgarian Interior Minister blamed Hezbollah for the attack, which resulted in the deaths of five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver, the German report stated that “Hezbollah was brought into connection with the attack” but that the link was not yet definitively proven. The report was published before the Bulgarian government submitted new evidence, according to a JTA article last week, showing a Hezbollah operative used a printer in Lebanon to aid the terrorists with fake documents as part of their planning for the attack.

The German report also contained information about the July 7, 2012, arrest of a Hezbollah member in Cyprus who plotted to kill Israelis and Jews on the Island. Germany’s report, however, does not contain the March conviction of Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, who admitted he was a Hezbollah operative and part of the terrorist organization’s global mission to monitor Jews.

Young German Hezbollah members are strongly connected and active on the Internet, including social media and various web forums, the report noted. Growing street demonstrations involving Hezbollah supporters and members were documented, including an event attended by 1,100 Hezbollah supporters last year at the Al-Quds Day march in Berlin. At 600, the 2012 number of young members almost doubled from 2011.

According to the report, as many as 3,000 Hezbollah supporters participated in the Iranian-sponsored Al- Quds Day march in the 1990s. The event calls for the destruction of Israel and stokes anti-Western hate.

Though not cited in the agency’s report, The Jerusalem Post reported in 2012 that the Imam Ali Mosque in Hamburg, widely considered by experts in Germany and abroad to be part of the long arm of Iran’s regime in the Federal Republic, chartered buses and sent Hezbollah supporters to an anti-Israel and anti-Western demonstration. Hamburg’s local intelligence agency stated that “two buses with roughly 90 people traveled to Berlin this year. The costs for the travel were paid for by the IZH,” an organization that operates the Shi’ite mosque.

According to the report, Berlin has 250 active Hezbollah members. It revealed that in Berlin there is an annual “victory celebration of the liberation” celebrating the IDF withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000. On May 26, 2012, roughly 700 Hezbollah participants took part in the event.

The report noted that in September 2012, Hezbollah members in many German cities protested against the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called for worldwide demonstrations against the film.

The most recent intelligence report cited the Hezbollah-controlled Orphans Project Lebanon in Germany as a way to send money to Lebanon.

Hezbollah has long used German territory to raise funds for the families of suicide bombers involved in killing Israelis. A 2009 report from the European Foundation for Democracy titled “Hezbollah’s Fund-raising Organization in Germany” revealed that the Orphans Project Lebanon, based in Göttingen, Lower Saxony, is “the German branch of a Hezbollah suborganization” that “promotes suicide bombings” and aims to destroy Israel.

Germany still allows the Orphans Project Lebanon to operate but eliminated its tax subsidy several years ago…

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Lebanese businesses in Europe fund Hezbollah

June 13, 2013

Hezbollah’s financial activities in South America and West Africa are well known, but their European enterprises should also be scrutinized.

Lebanese businessmen, front groups, and khums donors who aid Hezbollah are seldom investigated because the EU does not consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization.

Fortunately, Tablet Magazine is looking into issue, and offered this informative article on June 4.  An excerpt follows:

…What Europe should really be worried about is the group’s European business empire and its ramifications for the continent.

Lebanese Shiite communities in Europe provide good recruiting pools for the Party of God and often donate money to Hezbollah-sponsored charities that raise funds for social causes in Lebanon. Businessmen affiliated with Hezbollah also set up façade companies in countries with lax legislation and weak and corrupt governments and then transfer their funds to respectable European accounts. The latter are more important to the Lebanese group. Technically abiding by the European laws and keeping a low profile, they make most of the money the group needs to finance not only its military program but also the schools, hospitals, and community activities meant to secure the group’s popular base inside Lebanon.

According to Lebanese University professor Hares Suleiman, Hezbollah started building its business empire in 2001-2002, following the example of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which had set up networks of companies in the Gulf. “Hezbollah started contacting businessmen and building partnerships, increasing its capital and investing in hotels, the car trade, clothes manufacturing, and wholesale,” he said. “At the same time, Hezbollah members and supporters—who were not businessmen to start with—opened new businesses, investments, and institutions in Lebanon and abroad, in places such as Africa and the Gulf. After the 2006 July War, the phenomenon increased,” he pointed out.

The change was obvious in South Lebanon, where castle-like villas sprang up out of nowhere after the July 2006 war. Most locals would give you the official line of the party they support: They built their villas to show how fast the Lebanese resistance could regenerate after the war with Israel. In the town of Kherbet Selem, where Hezbollah controls the local council, the mayor’s relatives built an actual castle with the Brazilian flag on top—a clue to the source of the money, in Hezbollah’s burgeoning South American business empire—and Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah’s pictures lining the walls.

Most of the money channeled toward South Lebanon’s villages comes from Latin America and West Africa, where most of Hezbollah’s businesses are located. But informed sources say that even some of that money makes stops in Europe-based accounts belonging to financiers and is then laundered through European-based sister companies so it doesn’t attract too much attention.

Lebanese Shiite communities of Hezbollah supporters in Europe also raise funds for the Party of God through donations made to charities. Germany has a large community of Hezbollah supporters that has grown considerably during the past decade. German media reported in 2007 that 900 Hezbollah activists were in the country and that they regularly meet in 30 cultural community centers and mosques. These activists financially supported Hezbollah in Lebanon through fundraising organizations, such as the “Orphans Project Lebanon Association.” Funds donated to that association were then transferred to Hezbollah’s Al Shahid Association, which supports the families of the Party of God’s military personnel who are killed in action.

Sweden also hosts a strong community of Hezbollah supporters, which it allows to operate freely in the country. Several rallies organized by the party’s supporters had quite a considerable turnout in the country’s main cities and were supported by Sweden’s left-wing opposition parties. In the last year two Lebanese-Swedish men were arrested in separate instances for trying to plan attacks on Israelis in Bangkok and Cyprus. Hezbollah has also done public fundraising in other EU countries such as Denmark.

But the European authorities and law-enforcement agencies often do not look into Hezbollah’s fundraising activities, or into businesses that might have links to Hezbollah, because they are not seen as a threat to public security in Europe—no matter how clear the links are to organizations that sponsor violence elsewhere…

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Backstabbed: How Iraq helps Iran skirt sanctions

April 11, 2013

Nobody has been as good at tracking the painful truth of Iraqi-facilitated evasion of international sanctions on Iran as financial crime consultant Kenneth Rijock.  Consider:

  • The Kurds in northern Iraq have “allowed both rampant money laundering, and widespread facilitation of global Iran sanctions evasion” though their banks. In central Iraq, U.S. dollars are flowing in bulk from Baghdad to Iranmore>>
  • Lebanese banks and Bank Melli, a sanctioned Iranian bank, are operating in northern Iraq.  EU and North American businesses that use Lebanese banks may not be taking sufficient steps to prevent their transactions from benefiting Iranian end-users… more>>
  • “Iraq blatantly disregards UN sanctions on Iran” in accepting an Iranian-flagged vessel‘s shipment at its Um Qasr port, for example… more>>
  • Five Turkish banks in Iraq may be facilitating Iran’s sanction dodging behavior… more>>
  • Iran will reap $16 billion annually from a new natural gas deal with Iraq… more>>

Reading about the dangerous anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) policies of Iraq may be upsetting to those who have made personal sacrifices fighting for Iraqi freedom, but we have to face the current facts.  How does Rijock describe the Iraq invasion?  “Military success, yes; but AML/CFT utter failure.”

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More details emerge on Paraguay’s Hezbollah drug lord

March 5, 2013

In January we learned about Wassim el Abd Fadel, a Lebanese financier of Hezbollah.  A surprising amount of detail has been disseminated through the press about this case.  Now even more has been released.  Thanks to El Grillo for sending this over this update:

Drug lord in Paraguay linked to Hezbollah

It was mid-December last year when Interpol caught, in the transit area of Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, a 21-year-old Paraguayan woman who had swallowed over a kilogram of cocaine. Nelida Cardozo Taboada had disappeared from her hometown months before. She confessed to French police that she had been recruited as a “mule” by a network of drug smugglers. Her employer, a Paraguayan woman married to a Lebanese man, had convinced her to swallow the cocaine by promising her a job as a maid in Warsaw, Poland.

It took the police in Paraguay only a few days to reach the head of a Lebanese-led drug cartel in Ciudad del Este, a town located in the infamous tri-border area where the frontiers of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina meet. Wassim Abdel Fadel was arrested on December 21 together with his Paraguayan wife. But what police uncovered during the investigation led them further than they had expected.

According to information disclosed by Interpol and the Paraguayan police, Fadel, 30, was part of an international drug trafficking network controlled from Isla Margarita, Venezuela, a Caribbean holiday destination that is also an infamous hub for South American drug cartels. The leader of the cartel is Ghazi Atef Nassredine, also known as Abu Ali, a declared Hezbollah supporter who became a Venezuelan citizen 10 years ago and immediately thereafter became Venezuela’s diplomat to Beirut and Damascus. By arresting Fadel, Interpol and the Paraguayan police uncovered an international money-laundering and drug-smuggling network responsible for sending cocaine from South America to the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

Fadel was the leader of a network that would send laundered money, from drugs made in the tri-border area, to bank accounts in Istanbul and Damascus. According to a Paraguay Police Department press release sent to NOW, Fadel’s network regularly sent sums between $50,000 and $200,000 to these accounts. After investigating the owners, Paraguayan police came up with a list of Lebanese nationals known to be high-ranking Hezbollah members. Though the list was not disclosed to the media, the police said that the people on it were involved with Hezbollah’s financial operations. The same bank accounts also allegedly received money from different continents.

Although young, Fadel had gained control of an entire Hezbollah-backed real estate and drug market in Ciudad del Este after the network’s leaders – Lebanese-Americans Nemr Ali Zoayter, Amr Zoher, and Moussa Ali Hamdan – were arrested in Paraguay and extradited to the US. Zoayter and Zoher were caught in Ciudad del Este in 2008, while Hamdan was arrested in June 2010 in the same town.

According to statements released by the Paraguayan police, Fadel had been on the run for over three years. He was not only part of the drug cartel, but also the owner of a car-parts company, Fadel Automotores, located in Ciudad del Este. In 2008, several of his customers reported him to the police because he had defrauded them.

Fadel was born in Toulin, a village in the Lebanese district of Marjayoun. It was obvious to the villagers that he had made a fortune in Paraguay, as he had built a huge mansion in his hometown. However, he is not the only local who made his fortune in South America or West Africa; indeed, villages in the South and Beqaa Valley are studded with villas built by expatriates. But how the emigrants made their millions is often a mystery…

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