Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hizballah, Mexican Drug Cartels, and Used Cars

From the Investigative Project on Terrorism:

The law enforcement actions come amid a recent report citing Israeli intelligence saying Hizballah's funding from traditional state sponsors such as Iran and Syria has declined sharply. That financial crunch may be leading the Shiite group to build alliances with Mexican drug syndicates and increasingly fund its terrorist operations through profits from the lucrative South American cocaine trade.

If true, the U.S. law enforcement actions may further erode Hizballah's finances.

A Treasury designation, a criminal indictment and a civil lawsuit allege the Lebanese drug dealer Ayman Joumaa is part of a complex cocaine and automobile smuggling enterprise in the United States and West Africa that handles hundreds of millions of dollars each month. Some of those profits were routed to Hizballah through the Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB).

More than $300 million was wired into the United States through Lebanese financial institutions, according to the civil suit. The money laundering scheme allegedly involves at least 30 car dealerships throughout the country. As part of the investigation, federal agents raided a dealership in Tulsa.

"They're making big time money and it's going right into weapons acquisition, terrorist training, recruiting, corruption," DEA official Rusty Payne told Fox News. "Things needed to carry out terrorist attacks around the world. Some of the money is flowing back to the United States, back to these used car companies, to purchase more used cars to ship them to West Africa to sell those at a profit and then mix those used car proceeds in with the drug dollars."

The growing nexus between Hizballah and Mexican drug cartels allows the Iran-backed extremist group to make use of drug cartel transit routes to gain entry into the United States through its porous border with Mexico. Hizballah, in turn, offers Mexican syndicates expertise on smuggling and explosives as well as access to its drug trafficking networks in the Middle East and South Asia.

Iran-backed Hizballah and Mexican drug syndicates share "the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation experts," former DEA operations chief Michael Braun told the Washington Times. "They rely on the same shadow facilitators. One way or another they're all connected."

Braun also alleged that members of Iran's Quds Force are "commanding and controlling" Hizballah's criminal operations in Latin America.
(Full story here).

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