(Newsroom America) -- The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced arrests targeting Lebanese Hizballah’s External Security Organization Business Affairs Component (BAC), which is involved in international criminal activities such as drug trafficking and drug proceed money laundering.
These proceeds are used to purchase weapons for Hizballah for its activities in Syria.
This ongoing investigation spans the globe and involves numerous international law enforcement agencies in seven countries, and once again highlights the dangerous global nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism, the DEA said.
The operation is part of DEA’s Project Cassandra, which targets a global Hizballah 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 Hizballah External Security Organization BAC, was founded by deceased Hizballah Senior Leader Imad Mughniyah and currently operates under the control of Abdallah Safieddine and recent U.S.-designated Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) Adham Tabaja.
Members of the Hizballah 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.
Further, the Hizballah 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.”
Beginning in February 2015, based on DEA investigative leads, European authorities initiated an operation targeting the network’s criminal activities in that region.
Since then, law enforcement authorities, closely 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 transit through Lebanon, and a significant percentage of these proceeds are benefitting terrorist organizations, namely Hizballah.
This investigation is a result of leads developed during the investigation into the Lebanese Canadian Bank.
With DEA and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) working closely with foreign counterparts in France, Germany, Italy and Belgium, authorities arrested top leaders of the European cell of this Lebanese Hizballah External Security Organization BAC last week.
The most significant arrest was of the U.S.-designated SDGT Mohamad Noureddine, a Lebanese money launderer who has worked directly with Hizballah’s financial apparatus to transfer Hizballah funds via his Lebanon-based company Trade Point International S.A.R.L. and maintained direct ties to Hizballah commercial and terrorist elements in both Lebanon and Iraq.
The CBP National Targeting Center partnered with DEA and international counterparts such as Europol in this investigation.
Separately, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced sanctions last week targeted Hizballah’s financial support network by designating Hizballah-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, pursuant to Executive Order 13224.
This order targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.
Noureddine and El Dine were designated for providing financial services to or in support of Hizballah, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.
Trade Point International S.A.R.L. was designated for being owned or controlled by Noureddine. As a result of Treasury’s action, all assets of the designated individuals or entities that are located in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are frozen, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.
As part of its designation, Adam J. Szubin, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, stated that, “Hizballah 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.”