Lebanese businesses in Europe fund HezbollahJune 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…