A DEA sting has uncovered an alleged money laundering ring linked to Colombian drug traffickers and Lebanese militants Hezbollah, in the latest example of the nexus between Latin American organized crime and global terrorism.
US authorities have charged three alleged associates of Hezbollah, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, with money laundering, reported the Miami Herald.
One of the men, Mohammad Ahmad Ammar, is in detention in the United States, another, Hassan Mohsen Mansour, is in custody in Paris, while the third, Ghassan Diab, remains at large and is believed to be in Nigeria or Lebanon.
The charges are the result of an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) operation in which a DEA informant asked Ammar to help him launder $250,000 worth of Australian currency through Miami bank accounts, according to the Herald.
Ammar believed the money to be profits from cocaine sales that needed to be made accessible to Colombian drug traffickers, but in reality both the money and the accounts set up to receive the laundered cash belonged to the DEA. He was allegedly aided by Mansour and Diab, who provided the contacts and front businesses need to move the money through the global financial system, the Herald stated.
Court documents reviewed by the Herald describe Ammar as a Hezbollah associate who laundered money for Medellín-based crime syndicate the Oficina de Envigado. The documents also describe Mansour as an alleged Hezbollah associate and Diab as a relative of a high-ranking member of Hezbollah with access to numerous international bank accounts.
InSight Crime Analysis
Fears that Hezbollah could be looking to establish some sort of armed presence or directly control criminal activities in the region are likely overblown. However, there is little doubt the group maintains contacts that grant them access to Latin American money laundering, arms trafficking and drug trafficking networks, which represent an ideal financial and logistical resource for an underworld group with transnational interests.
SEE ALSO: Oficina de Envigado Profile
These latest arrests highlight the reasons why the interaction between Latin American organized crime and global terror networks is a growing concern for US authorities. Evidence of the links between Hezbollah and Latin American criminal networks has been building for some years, and alleged Hezbollah operatives have been discovered across the region, from Mexico down to Brazil.