The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced today that it uncovered major international criminal activity by the Islamist terror group Hezbollah, in which it used funds from drug trafficking operations to purchase weapons and fund its global terrorism.
Several arrests, targeting what the DEA referred to as the Lebanese Hezbollah’s External Security Organization Business Affairs Component (BAC), were conducted by the DEA and international law enforcement from seven other countries.
The arrests were part of the DEA’S ‘Project Cassandra’ which targets and monitors the global network of Hezbollah activities responsible for moving large quantities of cocaine in the US and Europe. The lead came from an initial investigation that had been conducted into the Lebanese-Canadian Bank.
Over the years, Hezbollah had set up business relationships with drug cartels in South America, such as La Oficina de Envigado, who are the major suppliers of cocaine to the US and Europe. According to reports,the Hezbollah BAC continues to launder significant profits from this drug exchange in a trade-based scheme known as the Black Market Peso Exchange.
DEA Acting Deputy Administrator Jack Riley said: “These drug trafficking and money laundering schemes utilised by the Business Affairs Component provide a revenue and weapons stream for an international terrorist organization responsible for devastating terror attacks around the world”.
The DEA and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), working closely with European counterparts in France, Germany, Italy and Belgium, arrested top leaders of the European cell of the BAC last week.
Forces arrested US-designated terrorist Mohamad Noureddine, a Lebanese money launderer, who worked directly with Hezbollah’s financial apparatus to transfer funds, via his Lebanon-based company, and has maintained direct ties to Hezbollah terrorists located in Iraq and Lebanon.
Additionally, the US Department of the Treasury announced sanctions last week targeting Hezbollah’s financial support network by designating Hezbollah-affiliated money launderers Noureddine and Hamdi Zaher El Dine, as well as the Lebanese trade company involved in the transfer of funds as designated terrorists or accomplices to terror.
The group has a long history of international terror attacks, including one at the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983 that killed 241 Americans, the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina that killed 85. Hezbollah has also been complicit in terrorist plots against Israelis in Bulgaria in 2012 and Peru in 2014.
In July 2013, the EU proscribed Hezbollah’s ‘military wing’ as a terrorist organisation, following a drive spearheaded by Conservative MEPs and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague.