Friday, December 16, 2011
U.S. cocaine habit funding Mideast terror via Mexican drug gangs
U.S. sued seven foreign firms for funneling to Hezbollah in Lebanon hundreds of millions of dollars from Mexican drug deals
WASHINGTON — America’s cocaine habit not only funds drug violence in the West, it also supports Iranian-backed terror and wars waged against Israel, prosecutors charge.
The U.S. Thursday sued seven foreign firms for funneling to Hezbollah in Lebanon more than $480 million from Mexican drug deals and shady U.S. car sales.
The political party and terror outfit carried out the 1983 bombings of the U.S. embassy and Marine Corps barracks in Beirut that killed 368 people.
More recently, in 2006, Hezbollah fought a month-long war against the Jewish state, and just this week claimed to have outed ten CIA officers working undercover in Lebanon.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who filed the suit, said it “puts into stark relief the nexus between narcotics trafficking and terrorism.”
The claim targets seven companies based in Lebanon and West Africa, including a bank and two currency exchanges.
It links one business — Lebanon Canadian Bank — to Ayman “Junior” Joumaa, a suspected Lebanese drug trafficker and money launderer who was indicted last month by a federal grand jury in Virginia.
The feds charge that Joumaa ran cocaine from Colombia into the hands of Los Zetas, perhaps Mexico’s most notorious criminal gang, which then moved it to the U.S.
In addition to the shipping fees, Joumaa laundered the profits, charging between 8 and 14%, and netting up to $200 million a month, prosecutors charge.
He moved the cash from businesses in Latin American and West Africa with the help of Hezbollah couriers.
Joumaa, 47, remains at large overseas.
In the car scam, a network of 30 U.S. dealers in seven states — including some dealers that didn’t even own a lot — took money wired from Hezbollah backers overseas to buy rides in the states, prosecutors charge.
The buyers then used Hezbollah-connected shipping companies to send the cars to West African countries like Benin. There, they were sold, and the profits sent back to Lebanon.
In Lebanon, banks named in the suit let Hezbollah-connected exchanges and businesses conduct cash transactions, totaling as much as $260,000 a day, without ever generating a paper trail, prosecutors charge.
Links between Latin American drug gangs and Iranian-backed terror came to the fore in October, when prosecutors charged that a pair of Iranian agents tried to hire a Mexican drug gang to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S.
The drug gang contact turned out to be a U.S. government informant, prosecutors said.