Posts Tagged ‘Venezuela’

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Arab state cash: recommended news reading

August 27, 2014
  • Samer Majzoub has served as Montreal’s middleman with the radical World Assembly of Muslim Youth and now Kuwait’s embassy to fund Islamic schools in Canada… more>>
  • Who funds the ISIS crisis? A top German official says, “The keyword there is Qatar“… more>>
  • The chorus grows:  “The U.S. needs to call a spade a spade and label Qatar as a State Sponsor of Terrorism“… (h/t Brian)… more>>
  • What role does Venezuela play as a cash courier for “humanitarian relief” on behalf of terror sponsors? Answer>>
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Passport fraud poses terror finance threat

April 1, 2014

The presence of two Iranians with stolen passports on the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines flight 370 highlighted the ease with which foreign nationals from state sponsors of terrorism can fly with a false identity and gain entry to a NATO country.

Although the men may not have been responsible for the plane crash, the situation raises the question of how often passports are stolen or forged and what threats this presents to the criminals’ purported country of origin.

Interpol says that only three countries in the world screen air passengers against Interpol’s database of stolen passports.  Phony passports are a big problem too.  Earlier this month, customs officials in Dubai seized 52 fake passports on the way into the U.A.E.

In 2010, ABC News reported, “A decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks brought to light the dangers of fake IDs, federal undercover agents are still able to easily obtain genuine U.S. e-Passports using clearly fraudulent information that should have raised red flags at the State Department.”  The Government Accountability Office had confirmed previously that obtaining a real passport using fake identification could be done “easily.”  More recently, the Daily Mail reported that fake passports can be purchased through the online Silk Road black market.

Benefits of a fraudulent passport

Individuals can carry out many activities with a fraudulent passport other than boarding a plane.  They can set up bank accounts and apply for credit cards, like one eastern European mob boss did in Canterbury—accounts which he used “to rip off casinos, high street stores, petrol stations and banks.”  Hackers can also set up bank accounts in the U.S. from overseas using false passports, and use those accounts as repositories for money obtained as the result of malware attacks, as a case from a few years ago demonstrated.

Basically, obtaining a fraudulent passport allows malicious actors to “buy citizenship” in a target country.  The Telegraph reported this month that a Bulgarian passport can be purchased underground for £150,000, which enables the buyer to pose as a European Union citizen, even if he or she has a criminal record, and become eligible for government services and public benefits.

PBS’s Frontline has reported that Al Qaeda uses counterfeit passports and has conducted passport forgery workshops “to travel internationally in order to raise funds, recruit operatives, train the operatives in Afghanistan and send them out to plan and conduct terrorist attacks.”

False identities also complicate law enforcement’s efforts to investigate crime.  The CBC recently highlighted the threat of “synthetic ID fraud,” saying that “Fraudsters have been able to obtain driver’s licences, passports, phone numbers and credit cards, as well as open bank accounts, take out bank loans and create companies, all under fake names. By the time police move in, many of the fraudsters have vanished, leaving investigators trying to locate people who never existed.”

Diplomatic passports

Possession of diplomatic passports by ambassadors, consuls, and other diplomatic officials immunize travelers but from bag searches at airports.  This “diplomatic pouch” carve-out presents a significant smuggling risk.

Financial crimes analyst Kenneth Rijock revealed that Hezbollah agents based in South America were granted diplomatic passports by Venezuela, meaning:

Hezbollah agents could transport cocaine in international commerce, without fear of arrest. They also can carry bulk cash, or financial instruments into offshore financial centres, this moving Hezbollah drug profits along on their journey to controlled entities inside Lebanon.  One wonders whether how many Hezbollah agents are running around Europe with Lebanese diplomatic passports, moving cash or cashier’s cheques through EU banks, in support of the organisation’s terrorist goals…

The Venezuela connection was followed by an uproar in Canada over an Iranian national who entered the country with a diplomatic passport issued by St. Kitts & Nevis after the Iranian paid a $1 million bribe to Caribbean officials.

Author of the book Dirty Dealing Peter Lilley once observed that possession of a diplomatic passport from “an obscure country” could be red flag for money laundering.

What can be done

There can always be tighter controls and better physical standards for passports to prevent counterfeiting, the same way that officials do with currency.  More countries could use Interpol’s database of lost and stolen passports, although there are costs associated with that.  The Heritage Foundation has argued that the biographical questionnaire in the U.S. passport application should be modified.  Individuals should also take steps to safeguard their own passports from being stolen or copied.

Another measure to consider would be for some countries to increase the penalties for counterfeit passports.  Hollywood actor Wesley Snipes got off with simply being able to return to his country without even paying a fine after allegedly being caught abroad with a fake South African passport.

This piece has also been published at Terror Finance Blog.

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No sanctions for Hezbollah’s Latin traffickers?

June 23, 2013

Ken Rijock insightfully points out what seems to be a bit of a double standard by the federal government—U.S. sanctions against Hezbollah agents in West Africa while Hezbollah agents in Venezuela are simply monitored quietly.  Some of the banks in Latin America don’t even know that they have Hezbollah customers because the operatives have not been named in public.  Shouldn’t the U.S. be a little more concerned about Hezbollah’s exploitation of New World neighbors?

US SANCTIONS HEZBOLLAH AGENTS IN AFRICA, BUT IGNORES THOSE IN LATIN AMERICA THAT POSE A GREATER THREAT

 

This week’s designation, of a number of Hezbollah agents working in West Africa, who are engaged in fundraising and recruiting, is a step in the right direction, but still leaves me asking: why aren’t the cadre of Hezbollah agents in Latin America also named and designated ?

Known as Hezbollah Latin America, as well as Hezbollah Venezuela, these terrorists traffic in narcotics, and other criminal pursuits, sending their illicit profits back to Beirut through cooperative financial institutions in the Republic of Panama. They are based in Venezuela, and operate openly, with the blessing of the regime in power there, whose leadership is believed to share in a portion of the the criminal profits, for assisting in the regular air transport of bulk cash into Panama, and allowing the trafficking to flourish.

Here’s the problem for financial institutions in the Western Hemisphere. The 92 Hezbollah agents in place in Latin America have all received valid Venezuelan passports, with new Spanish-sounding names created for them, thereby concealing their true Lebanese identities. I have seen some of those, and they are bona fide documents. These individuals now have clean identities, which allow them to open accounts, transact business, and assist in the material support of a specially designated global terrorist organisation. There are also approximately fifty other individuals who support their operation, cash cash couriers, front business operators, suppliers, and others activities; They also must be identified.

It is plain that law enforcement agencies of the United States have this information, but, with the exception of the leader of the group, none of these individuals has been designated by OFAC. The question is why not ? Neither Panamanian banks, nor for that matter American financial institutions, know who the Hezbollah agents are, and risk unwittingly providing material support to a designated terrorist group…

Read it all.

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Money jihad news: recommended reading

April 18, 2013
  • Cyber attacks are often treated as technology news. But now it’s more about bucks than bits… more>>
  • So generous of Venezuela to have given a diplomatic passport Hezbollah agent Ghazi Nasr al Din . How many more operatives like him are immune from baggage searches at customs?  More>>
  • You’re a kidnapped Filipino, and your government won’t pay for your ransom. Why your government is right… more>>
  • The Palestinian Authority denies paying salaries to terrorists in Israeli prisons.  I beg to disagree, says prisoner’s wife… more>>
  • Are the FARC and Al Qaeda partnering in a cocaine-for-cash and weapons trade? And you thought cash-for-clunkers was bad… more>>
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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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Money laundering expert accuses Venezuela of massive uranium exports to Iran

January 16, 2013

One of Money Jihad‘s favorites, the Financial Crimes Blog by Kenneth Rijock, is making a disturbing allegation:  that Venezuela is illegally exporting massive amounts of uranium for Iran’s nuclear program, and that U.S. officials have rejected the evidence.  The “reliable sources” aren’t named and the “irrefutable, documentary evidence” isn’t specified, so take it with a grain of salt, but Mr. Rijock has proved to be very insightful and prescient before.

From Jan. 10:

US POINTEDLY IGNORES VENEZUELAN URANIUM EXPORTS

The United States, for reasons not known to this writer, appears to be deliberately ignoring the mounting indications of massive exports of Uranium, from Venezuela, to its end user, the Government of Iran. Reliable sources have confirmed that irrefutable, documentary evidence of same, from unimpeachable sources, has been politely declined when offered. America opposes Iran’s WMD programme, somebody has chosen to ignore the truth, when  it comes from Venezuela.

Given that close monitoring of Iran’s developing illegal Weapons of Mass Destruction programme has become an American obsession, I am baffled as to why actionable intelligence, regarding these outbound shipments is of no interest to America’s intelligence community. Vessels laden with Uranium  are leaving Venezuela’s Caribbean ports, steaming direct to Iran with their illicit cargo…

There’s a little more to the full post including Rijock’s speculation on the reason for the U.S.’s hear-no-evil, see-no-evil attitude here.

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Jihadists exploit Latin America to finance terror

December 17, 2012

Latin America has experienced a possible increase in terror financing activities by radical Islamists throughout 2012.  Consider the developments that have been revealed this year:

  • In September, published reports indicated that a Hezbollah camp in Nicaragua is training 30 operatives and is laundering money.
  • The Venezuela chapter of Hezbollah is using Panama for bulk cash smuggling for follow-on transfer to Beirut.
  • Some goods, possibly even missile components, are being exported via Panama directly to Iran.
  • The use of the Venezuelan air carrier Conviasa to smuggle contraband through Africa to Europe earned it an “operational ban” from the EU in April.  Hezbollah profited from the Conviasa flights.  It is unclear whether the ban interferes with Conviasa’s African flights.
  • Cuba was listed again by the U.S. in 2012 as a state sponsor of terrorism partly for the continued safe haven Cuba provides to terrorist groups FARC and ETA.  Havana is now also letting IHH, the radical Islamist Turkish charity that has been banned by Germany for its financing of Hamas, build a mosque in Cuba.
  • A trio of Hezbollah agents in Mexico was exposed during an arrest of one operative who had previously been convicted in the U.S. for credit card fraud that funded terrorism.
  • Ecuador was blacklisted in June by FATF, the international financial watchdog, for failing to make progress against money laundering and terrorist financing.
  • In its annual report in July, the U.S. State Department said, “Brazil has not criminalized terrorist financing in a manner that is consistent with the FATF Special Recommendation II.”

Given its Western heritage and deep Catholic faith, Latin America can and should be a natural ally in the war against Islamic terror.  Its energy resources make it a natural counterweight to the oil powerhouse of the Middle East.

But this wonderful opportunity to present a united trans-American front against jihad is being jeopardized by attitudes of permissiveness, ignorance, and political correctness.  American politicians like Michelle Bachman and Connie Mack who recognize the threat are written off as know-nothing xenophobes.  But the news this year indicates that they are correct.

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