Posts Tagged ‘narco-trafficking’

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Seven habits of highly effective kingpins

May 27, 2014

Criminal and terrorist groups are highly interconnected according to new analysis of data by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. The conventional wisdom was that criminals worry that working with terrorists may draw unwanted scrutiny from their governments, and they are only inclined to cooperate only in resource-poor environments where it is necessary to survive. But the CTC finds that transnational traffickers and criminals appear to be more than willing to partner with terrorists, and that they benefit from these relationships in a wide variety of environments.

The full report can be read here. It is very thorough (89 pages) and includes academic language and models. Here are a just a few of the salient points from the study about members of the global underworld that may be of interest to practitioners and analysts outside of academia:

  1. Interconnected: 98 percent of the individuals in the global illicit marketplace are within two degrees of separation of each other.
  2. International: One in three individuals in the network have international relationships.
  3. Distributed power: Unlike typical hub-and-spoke networks where 80 percent of the connections rely on 20 percent of the actors involved, the global illicit network is somewhat less dependent on a small number of powerful actors/kingpins. Twenty percent of participants are responsible for only 65 percent of underworld connections. This diffuse hub-and-spoke model makes the network tougher for law enforcement to disrupt.
  4. Willingness to work with terrorists: “Individuals involved in other illicit activities link to terrorists 35 percent of the time” (p. 43). Terrorists often serve as “boundary spanners,” that link and form introductions between disparate groups such as drug traffickers, arms dealers, and organized crime.
  5. Frequent bilateral links with the United Arab Emirates: The top two bilateral connections in the criminal underworld–the U.S. and Colombia and the U.S. and Mexico–are probably unsurprising to Americans. The third most prevalent bilateral connections are between India and the U.A.E., and the sixth most common are between Pakistan and the U.A.E.
  6. Organized crime, not just terrorism, benefits from state sponsorship. We know that state sponsorship of terrorism exists, but for some reason we erroneously assume that state sponsorship of crime does not. The evidence from North Korea, Russia, the Balkans, and Pakistan indicates that criminals can carry out national interests—a phenomenon deserving further study.
  7. Convergence is not driven by poverty. Terrorists and criminals are drawn together in a variety of environments, not just in countries where there are little money or resources. The evidence indicates that the opposite is often true—that criminal masterminds prefer climates where there is some level of predictability and economic development, such as Monzer al-Kassar operating in Spain and Dawood Ibrahim in Dubai. Focusing only on failed states could be a red herring.

Acknowledgment: Thanks to Twitter user @El_Grillo1 for sending in a link to the CTC study.

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Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood growing poppies and cannabis in Sinai to fund their resurgence

May 14, 2014

Islamic terrorists argue that profiting from drugs is acceptable if done with the intent to damage infidels and apostates. We’ve seen Hezbollah, the Taliban, al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram embrace this approach, and now we learn that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is doing it too. The Brotherhood is hopeful that they can use the illicit trade to finance the reestablishment of sharia law and their control over Egypt.

From Raymond Ibrahim (h/t to 1389blog.com):

Muslim Brotherhood Dealing Drugs to Fund Terrorism

The Muslim Brotherhood and its jihadi supporters are the latest terrorists to grow and cultivate illegal drugs in the hills of Sinai, in order to sell them and fund their terrorism campaign with the proceeds—not unlike Afghanistan’s Taliban earlier.

A security source from Egypt’s Interior Ministry who chose to remain anonymous recently made these revelations to reporters.

Among other things, he said the numbers of such drug plantations in the Sinai had dramatically grown since the January 25 Revolution, which brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power.

Since the June 30 Revolution, however, which saw the ousting of the Brotherhood, the military has found and destroyed dozens of acres where poppy and cannabis were being cultivated, plants from which opium, heroin, and hashish are extracted.

Although such drugs are generally banned in Islam, the Brotherhood and its supporters, explained the security source, grow them under the Islamic maxim “Necessity makes the prohibited permissible”…

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Neighbors say Kosovo smuggles drugs and organs

April 13, 2014

The president of the Czech Republic says that Kosovo, a self-declared independent state that is 95 percent Muslim, is funding terrorism from drug smuggling. President Zeman’s comments dovetail with longstanding accusations from Serbia that Kosovo profits from harvesting human organs.

Funding jihad from such activities wouldn’t be unprecedented. Elsewhere in the world, Hamas makes money from the illicit organ trade, and terrorist groups including the Taliban and Hezbollah make hundreds of millions of dollars annually from drug trafficking. Profiting from drugs is often justified by Islamists on the basis of ushr, the classical Islamic tax on crop harvests.

Thanks to Twitter user El Grillo for sending in this report from CTK, the Czech news agency, via the Prague Post:

Czech president is critical of Kosovo during his trip to Serbia

Belgrade, April 1 (ČTK) — Terrorism should not be underestimated, mainly because it is comfortably financed from drug sales, Czech President Miloš Zeman said at the beginning of his two-day official visit to Serbia today, and he indirectly mentioned Kosovo in connection with terrorism.

At the opening of an exhibition on Czech-Serbian military cooperation in Belgrade, Zeman said Islamic fundamentalism is the most visible form of terrorism.

“The Taliban enjoys strong economic support in the areas it controls because the production of opium in these areas has risen 10 times. Let alone the fact of some regimes are being financed via dealings with human organs,” Zeman said.

Serbia accuses Kosovo leaders of dealings with human bodies in the late 1990s.

In 2011, Belgrade submitted a draft resolution demanding an independent international enquiry into the suspicious cases to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

Accusations of human organ trafficking in Kosovo appeared in 2008 for the first time.

In 2010, investigator Dick Marty mentioned them in his report for the Council of Europe. He accused the Kosovo rebels’ army (UCK) of having taken organs away from Serbian war prisoners and from Kosovo Albanians who disagreed with UCK’s practices.

The present Kosovo prime pinister, Hashim Thaci, was allegedly involved in the dealings.

Kosovo, former Serbian province, unilaterally declared its independence, which Belgrade has never recognized.

Zeman, too, is against the recognition of independent Kosovo, though the Czech Republic recognized it under the then right-wing Cabinet and president Václav Klaus in 2008.

Zeman previously labeled the Kosovo regime “a terrorist dictatorship financed by drug mafias.”

In Belgrade today, Zeman said the biggest enemy of the Euro-Atlantic civilization is international terrorism.

“Let’s not underestimate the danger, if for the fact alone that it is comfortably financed from drug sales,” Zeman said…

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Heroin is funding Hizbul Mujahideen

February 11, 2014

A Kuwaiti drug kingpin has been orchestrating an international operation to send narcotics through Kashmir into India.  A Pakistan-based “launch commander” of the jihadist organization Hizbul Mujahideen is a key middleman and beneficiary of the drug profits.  Khurshid Alam, a high-ranking police officer in Kashmir, has been arrested along with two other policemen for their involvement in the drug smuggling scheme.

CNN-IBN has the report:

PTI news service has additional details here.  Thanks to El Grillo for alerting Money Jihad to the story.

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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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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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Washington Post: lost battle against narcotics in Afghanistan one of “starkest failures” of Obama war strategy

November 18, 2013

On its news pages, not its opinion section, the Washington Post reports the U.S. has “lost its battle” against drugs in Afghanistan.  The collusion between Afghan elites and the poppy industry will only get worse as U.S. troops exit.  One Afghan official is quoted as saying, “the drug economy is fueling terrorism, destabilizing the region and the global village. It is vanishing the achievements of the past 10 years.”

The Taliban is one of the beneficiaries of this industry, from which traditional Islamic ushr taxation on poppy harvests and other drug profits will enable them to keep more fighters on the payroll, buy more weapons, and launch more attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond.

As U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, poppy trade it spent billions fighting still flourishes

By Ernesto Londoño, Published: November 3

The United States is withdrawing troops from Afghanistan having lost its battle against the country’s narcotics industry, marking one of the starkest failures of the 2009 strategy the Obama administration pursued in an effort to turn around the war.

Despite a U.S. investment of nearly $7 billion since 2002 to combat it, the country’s opium market is booming, propelled by steady demand and an insurgency that has assumed an increasingly hands-on role in the trade, according to law enforcement officials and counternarcotics experts. As the war economy contracts, opium poppies, which are processed into heroin, are poised to play an ever larger role in the country’s economy and politics, undercutting two key U.S. goals: fighting corruption and weakening the link between the insurgency and the drug trade.

The Afghan army opted this spring for the first time in several years not to provide security to eradication teams in key regions, forgoing a dangerous mission that has long embittered rural Afghans who depend on the crop for their livelihoods.

Experts say that, in the end, efforts over the past decade to rein in cultivation were stymied by entrenched insecurity in much of the country, poverty, and the ambivalence — and, at times, collusion — of the country’s ruling class.

With a presidential election just months away, political will for anti-drug initiatives is weak among members of the Afghan elite, many of whom have become increasingly dependent on the proceeds of drugs as foreign funding dries up, said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, who heads the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Afghanistan. “Money is less and less available within the licit economy,” he said. “The real danger is the weakened resistance to corruption and to involvement in a distorted political economy, which weakens your resistance to collusion with the enemy”…

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Drug smugglers build fancy tunnels on US border

November 15, 2013

Gaza isn’t the only place with illicit smuggling tunnels.  More than 75 tunnels have been found along the U.S.’s southwest border since 2008 according to ABC News, which has remarkable footage from an underground mega-tunnel connecting Tijuana to San Diego:

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Terrorists lose out on heroin money

October 21, 2013

Time to salute the crew of the Toronto, which has once again carried out a major drug bust on the high seas.  Most likely, profits from the heroin sales would have inured to the benefit of the Taliban.

Thanks to El Grillo for sending this over from CTV News:

Heroin seized by Canadian warship linked to terrorist groups: commander

A commander on board a Canadian warship that seized more than 180 kilograms of heroin says the drug came from suppliers in the Middle East and is linked to terrorist groups.

HMCS Toronto Cmdr. Matthew Bowen said the drugs were destined for recipients in Africa, and would have funded “extremist elements.”

He said the drugs likely have ties to terrorist organizations with connections to Afghanistan.

“We have information that leads us to believe (the heroin) is definitely linked to terrorist organizations,” Bowen told CTV News on Sunday.

The massive drug bust took place approximately 800 kilometres east of the Horn of Africa. Crew members of the HMCS Toronto boarded a suspected smuggling ship and seized 154 bags of heroin.

Bowen said the operation went “smoothly.”

“Once (the smuggling ships) are confronted with a very large helicopter, a significant and well-armed boarding party that clearly knows their tactics, knows how to look after security with again, a very large warship in the background, they don’t tend to give us any trouble.”

The 258-crew frigate, which was on patrol in the Arabian Sea, is part of a multinational counter-terrorism effort.

Bowen said his crew has achieved its goal and they will not be pursuing the “middle men” involved in the drug operation.

“Once we have the drugs in our possession and we dispose of them, we’ve achieved the goal of what we want to do, which is to deny terrorist organizations the funding that comes from being involved in these kinds of smuggling operations,” he said…

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Frigate interdicts 6 tons of terror-linked hashish

June 19, 2013

Canadian navy busts narco-mariners in the Arabian Sea

The drugs probably originated from Afghanistan with the Taliban or the Haqqani network involved in the supply chain, including a 10 pe.  The commanding officer of the warship Toronto noted that “Every dollar we deny these terrorist organizations works toward making our world a safer place.”

From the National Post on June 6:

Canadian warship HMCS Toronto seizes six tonnes of hashish in counter-terror operation

The Royal Canadian Navy ship HMCS Toronto seized six tonnes of hashish in its largest narcotics bust to date since beginning counter-terror operations in the Arabian Sea, the Department of National Defence says.

The Toronto‘s crew made the discovery during an inspection of a ship on May 30th and DND says the hashish was recovered and destroyed without incident.

DND did not provide specific details on the raid but provided photos showing armed sailors in bullet-proof vests and helmets on board the small vessel.

It was the largest hashish seizure in the history of the 29-nation member Combined Maritime Forces, coming not long after a massive heroin bust by the same ship.

To date, Toronto has seized more than 7.3 tonnes of narcotics since March, representing hundreds of millions of dollars in street value, DND says.

“I am extremely proud of the high level of proficiency and tenacity that my crew has shown on this deployment. The outstanding work of all onboard has contributed to these record narcotics seizures,” said Commander Jeff Hamilton, Commanding Officer of HMCS Toronto…

The Globe & Mail notes that “The six tonnes of cannabis resin are the largest hashish seizure in the history of the combined maritime forces.”

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