An ongoing investigation into a “massive” international drug trafficking and money laundering operation run by the Iran-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah has resulted in several arrests, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced in a statement released on Monday.
The DEA, a division of the United States Department of Justice, announced the arrests and other enforcement activities as part of Operation Cassandra, which targets Hezbollah’s global network, known as Hezbollah External Security Organization Business Affairs Component (BAC). Hezbollah BAC was founded by Imad Mughniyeh, a senior member of the terror group who died in 2008, and has more recently been run by Abdallah Safieddine and Adham Tabaja. Tabaja was classified by the United States as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) in June of last year.
According to the DEA, Hezbollah has worked with South American drug cartels, including La Oficina de Envigado, to supply cocaine to the United States and Europe, and has laundered the proceeds of its drug sales in a scheme called 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.”
According to the DEA, the latest efforts against Hezbollah began last year and led to the uncovering of a network of couriers who transferred the terror group’s drug money from Europe to the Middle East. A large portion of the drug proceeds traveled through Lebanon, mostly benefiting Hezbollah.
The DEA teamed with Customs and Border Protection, as well as relevant authorities in France, Germany, Italy and Belgium, who arrested top leaders of Hezbollah BAC last week. Among these was U.S.-designated SDGT Mohamad Noureddine, a Lebanese money-launderer who has transferred significant funds to Hezbollah through his company Trade Point International S.A.R.L. Noureddine has also “maintained direct ties to Hizballah commercial and terrorist elements in both Lebanon and Iraq,” according to the DEA.
Noureddine’s designation was publicized last week, and his arrest by French authorities, along with that of three others, was announced over the weekend.
“Hizballah needs individuals like Mohamad Noureddine and Hamdi Zaher El Dine to launder criminal proceeds for use in terrorism and political destabilization,” Adam J. Szubin, acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence said last week. “We will continue to target this vulnerability, and expose and disrupt such enablers of terrorism wherever we find them.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif caused a diplomatic incident two years ago when he visited the grave of Hezbollah BAC founder Mughniyeh, who was killed in a blast in Damascus. Mughniyeh was the mastermind of the deadly 1983 attacks on the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, as well as the kidnapping of the CIA’s Beirut station chief William Buckley, who died after 15 months of filmed torture.
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