And completely unrelated to that, momentum is gathering in both Washington and Bogota to crack down on what are seen as ties between Hizballah and the drug trade. I have been amazed, since returning to Washington from a five-month research trip to Lebanon, by the degree to which policymakers in Washington are concerned about Hizbollah’s activities in the Americas. This is an issue that I do not know a lot about. I am generally skeptical of any efforts to turn Hizballah into some narco-terror group with global reach, believing such a description gives Hizballah far too much credit. But Mitch Prothero is on this story like white on rice. Key excerpt from his article:
“I have been amazed, since returning to Washington from a five-month research trip to Lebanon, by the degree to which policymakers in Washington are concerned about Hizbollah’s activities in the Americas,” said Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
But I kid, I kid. Seriously, the key excerpt from his article:
Working with US intelligence and anti-drug officials, Colombian authorities last October announced the arrest of at least 36 members of a cocaine-smuggling ring that trafficked drugs from Colombia and Brazil through way-stations in poor West African states by air, before sending the cargo on to Europe and the Middle East.
Chekry Harb, a Lebanese national who uses the nickname “Taliban”, was arrested as the leader of the group and described by Colombian and US authorities as a “world-class money launderer” who cycled hundreds of millions of dollars a year in drug proceeds through banks from Panama to Hong Kong to Beirut.
“The profits from the sales of drugs went to finance Hizbollah,” Gladys Sanchez, the lead investigator in Bogota, told the Los Angeles Times in October. “This is an example of how narco-trafficking is of interest to all criminal organisations.”
In South America, businesses run by members of sizeable Shiite communities in Colombia, Venezuela, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina and other countries often serve as cover for Hizbollah fund-raising cells.
Now the question I have is whether or not these instances are examples of money-laundering and fund-raising directly controlled by Hizballah or whether these are instead examples of Shia Lebanese expatriates not formally associated with Hizballah making donations to the organization through shadier-than-normal means. And by "shadier-than-normal" allow me to put forth the following "scale of shadiness":
1 = those little donation boxes you see in Beirut
2 = some guy standing on the Corniche stopping traffic and asking passers-by for change
9 = a religious organization using trade in narcotics and blood diamonds to finance their resistance mission
10 = skimming the top off of Coldplay box office receipts