Posts Tagged ‘Margarita Island’

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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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Terror operatives afoot in Venezuela

August 26, 2011

Roger Noriega, former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States, has presented chilling congressional testimony on the role of Venezuela in sponsoring Hezbollah in Latin America.  Roll tape:

The testimony before the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence took place in July, which snuck by us until now (h/t Eju! TV) Here are some additional key excerpts from Amb. Noriega’s written testimony:

  • Hezbollah and the Quds Force “cooperate to carry out fundraising, money-laundering schemes, narcotics smuggling, proselytization, recruitment, and training. We can identify more than 80 operatives in at least 12 countries throughout the region…”
  • Hezbollah is “is raising funds through various criminal and commercial operations, recruiting converts from among disaffected youth and others, and developing its operational capabilities in our own Hemisphere.”
  • “Hezbollah’s presence in Latin America is growing significantly with the support of the Chávez regime in Venezuela. Chávez, who has a track record of supporting Colombian narcoterrorists, has cooperated with Iran to provide political support, financing, or arms to Hezbollah, Hamas, or Palestinian Islamic Jihad in this Hemisphere and elsewhere. For example, Venezuela’s Margarita Island has eclipsed the infamous “Tri-Border Area” – the region where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay come together in South America – as a principal safe haven and center of Hezbollah operations in the Americas.”
  • “A key operative in the Hezbollah network in Latin America is Ghazi Atef Salameh Nassereddine Abu Ali, a man who was born in Lebanon, became a Venezuelan citizen about 10 years ago, and now is Venezuela’s No. 2 diplomat in Syria. Along with at least two of his brothers, he manages a network that raises and launders money and recruits and trains operatives to expand Hezbollah’s influence in Venezuela and throughout Latin America. Nassereddine was black-listed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in June 2008 for his fundraising and logistical support on behalf of Hezbollah.”
  • “As recently as two weeks ago, a U.S. State Department official told this Congress that Hezbollah activity in the Western Hemisphere was confined to ‘fundraising’ – as if that were comforting. The fact is, that assertion grossly understates the growing Hezbollah threat in our Hemisphere, as my foregoing testimony indicates.”
  • “The cocaine kingpin Walid Makled, several of whose companies did business with the Hezbollah operative and Venezuelan diplomat Ghazi Nassereddine, confirmed in a televised interview on April 3 that Hezbollah conducts fundraising and operates cocaine labs in Venezuela with the protection of that government.”
  • “Hugo Chávez hosted a terror summit of senior leaders of Hamas (‘supreme leader’ Khaled Meshal), Hezbollah (unnamed “chief of operations”), and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (Secretary General Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah) in Caracas on August 22, 2010. That extraordinary meeting was organized at the suggestion of Iran, and the logistical arrangements were made by Nassereddine.”

Chavez & Hezbo leader Nasrallah

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