DEA, European authorities uncover massive Hezbollah drug, money-laundering operation

TerrorismDEA, European authorities uncover massive Hezbollah drug, money-laundering operation

Published 2 February 2016

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) yesterday announced what the agency described as a “significant enforcement activity,” including arrests targeting Lebanese Hezbollah’s External Security Organization Business Affairs Component (BAC), which is involved in international criminal activities such as drug trafficking and drug proceeds money laundering. These proceeds are used to purchase weapons for Hezbollah for its activities in Syria.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) yesterday announced what the agency described as a “significant enforcement activity,” including arrests targeting Lebanese Hezbollah’s External Security Organization Business Affairs Component (BAC), which is involved in international criminal activities such as drug trafficking and drug proceeds money laundering. These proceeds are used to purchase weapons for Hezbollah for its activities in Syria. The agency notes that the investigation into the Lebanese Shi’a militia’s criminal activities is ongoing, and that it involves numerous international law enforcement agencies in seven countries. The investigation “once again highlights the dangerous global nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism,” DEA says.

DEA notes that the effort is part of DEA’s Project Cassandra, which targets a global Hezbollah network responsible for the movement of large quantities of cocaine in the United States and Europe. This global network, referred to by law enforcement as the Lebanese Hezbollah External Security Organization Business Affairs Component (BAC), was founded by Hezbollah chief of operations Imad Mughniyah, who was killed by Israeli agents in Damascus in 2008, and currently operates under the control of Abdallah Safieddine and recent U.S.-designated Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) Adham Tabaja.

Members of the Hezbollah BAC have established business relationships with South American drug cartels, such as La Oficina de Envigado, responsible for supplying large quantities of cocaine to the European and United States drug markets. The Hezbollah BAC continues to launder significant drug proceeds as part of a trade based money laundering scheme known as the Black Market Peso Exchange.

“These drug trafficking and money laundering schemes utilized by the Business Affairs Component provide a revenue and weapons stream for an international terrorist organization responsible for devastating terror attacks around the world,” said DEA acting deputy administrator Jack Riley. “DEA and our international partners are relentless in our commitment to disrupt any attempt by terrorists and terrorist organizations to leverage the drug trade against our nations. DEA and our partners will continue to dismantle networks who exploit the nexus between drugs and terror using all available law enforcement mechanisms.”

DEA notes that beginning in February 2015, based on DEA investigative leads, European authorities launched an operation targeting the network’s criminal activities on the continent. Since then, law enforcement authorities, supported by DEA, have uncovered an intricate network of money couriers who collect and transport millions of euros in drug proceeds from Europe to the Middle East. The currency is then paid in Colombia to drug traffickers using the Hawala disbursement system. A large portion of the drug proceeds was found to go through Lebanon, and a significant percentage of these proceeds is benefitting Hezbollah.

This investigation benefitted from leads developed during the investigation into the Lebanese Canadian Bank.

“The combination of aggressive international law enforcement investigations and Treasury’s ongoing sanctions pressure shows the scope of the global commitment to diminish the ability of Hezbollah and its financial supporters to move funds worldwide,” DEA says. 

The most significant arrest announced yesterday was of the U.S.-designated SDGT Mohamad Noureddine, a Lebanese money launderer who has worked directly with Hezbollah’s financial apparatus to transfer Hezbollah funds via his Lebanon-based company Trade Point International S.A.R.L. and maintained direct ties to Hezbollah commercial and terrorist elements in both Lebanon and Iraq.

Separately, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced sanctions last week targeted Hezbollah’s financial support network by designating Hezbollah-affiliated money launderers Noureddine and Hamdi Zaher El Dine, as well as Trade Point International S.A.R.L, a company owned or controlled by Noureddine, in accordance with Executive Order 13224. This order targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.

Adam J. Szubin, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, stated that, “Hezbollah needs individuals like Mohamad Noureddine and Hamdi Zaher El Dine to launder criminal proceeds for use in terrorism and political destabilization. We will continue to target this vulnerability, and expose and disrupt such enablers of terrorism wherever we find them.”

view counter

Leave a comment

Register for your own account so you may participate in comment discussion. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to abide by our Comment Guidelines, our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Use. Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief. Names are displayed with all comments. Learn more about Joining our Web Community.