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The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced 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, Homeland Security News Wire reports. 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.
Members of the Hezbollah BAC have established business relationships with South American drug cartels 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.
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.
Adam J. Szubin, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, stated that, “Hezbollah needs individuals (…) 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.”