Posts Tagged ‘Columbia’

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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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Financial mischief: recommended reading

September 26, 2013
  • “We should bleed America economically,” says Zawahiri…  more>>
  • It was a lot of fun laundering $1.4 million for terrorist guerrillas, until he got caughtmore>>
  • The Muslim Brotherhood created international sharia-compliant finance, and still controls it… under Saudi supervision.  More>>
  • If Muhammad Atta II waltzed into SunTrust today, would he qualify for a bank account?  More>>
  • Uzi Shaya could prove to be a crucial witness in the terror finance trial against the Bank of China—if Israel lets him testify… more>>
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Drugs, Al Qaeda, FARC, and arming the rebels

May 12, 2013

Mounting evidence suggests that weapons given to Libyan militants in the rebellion against Qaddafi were subsequently leveraged to purchase cocaine from FARC for follow-on distribution to the same European countries that helped arm the rebels in the first place.  No lessons will be learned from this fiasco, as it’s full steam ahead with the same players arming Syrian rebels.

From the Mirror (h/t Aisha):

Al Qaeda’s £168million cocaine smugglers: terror group flooding Britain with drugs

28 Apr 2013

Profits are being used to fund terror plots in the UK and western Europe

Al Qaeda has teamed up with other terror groups to smuggle cocaine to Britain, the Sunday People has ­discovered. One plot involved a staggering four tons of the illegal drug with a street value of £168million.

Al Qaeda, led by 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden until his death in May 2011, is using profits to fund terror plots in the UK and western Europe.

And they have paid for the cocaine with weapons looted in Libya during the mayhem following the death of Colonel Gaddafi in 2011.

Spooks from MI6 and the UK’s criminal intelligence agency SOCA have joined forces to investigate al Qaeda’s links to drug cartels and terrorist groups in Africa and South America.

Two Colombians – one a member of left-wing terror movement FARC – were arrested after a probe by the US Drugs Enforcement Agency.

It is understood the South American group, now a major ­cocaine cartel, sold a large quantity of the drug to bin Laden’s North African branch, al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb.

They paid using cash and also weapons looted in Libya.

The drug was shipped to North Africa and moved across the Mediterranean into southern France where it is believed to have been distributed to other European ­countries, including the UK. A second operation carried out by secret intelligence groups led to the arrest of the former head of the navy in West Africa’s Guinea-Bissau, now classed as a “narco-state” because of its reliance on the cocaine trade.Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto and six others have now been flown to New York and charged with drugs trafficking. Four also face terrorism charges.

They were caught in a sting ­operation in which they believed they were talking to members of FARC. They agreed to supply ground-to-air missiles and a quantity of AK-47 assault rifles and grenade launchers in exchange for four tons of cocaine with a street value of £168 million.

Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb has long been involved with cocaine traffickers, receiving large payments to ensure drug runners could safely cross the Algerian Sahara with multi-million-pound consignments.

But spies say this is the first time evidence has emerged suggesting the organisation are themselves trafficking cocaine into Europe.

A highly placed crime ­intelligence source in London said: “It is a very worrying development and both MI6 and SOCA will be working ­together to find out as much as they can.

“When there is an overlap between straightforward crime and security matters, the two agencies work together. There will be a lot of interaction with security forces from several countries.

“France will be particularly involved given the Algerian connection and the fact that France seems to be the main entry point for the al Qaeda shipments. There will also be strong American interest”…