Hezbollah is a Lebanon-based terrorist group

The DEA has revealed money laundering links between the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah and Colombian mafia group the Oficina de Envigado. However, any assertions of a mass-scale narco-terrorism nexus should be taken with a pinch of salt.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has claimed that the Hezbollah's global drug trafficking network, known as the External Security Organization Business Affairs Component (BAC), has "established business relationships with South American drug cartels, such as the Oficina de Envigado."

The assertion was made in a press release describing the arrest of various members of the BAC -- responsible for transnational criminal activities such as drug trafficking and the laundering of drug proceeds. The dirty money is reportedly used to buy weapons for use in the Hezbollah's activities in Syria.

SEE ALSO:  Oficina de Envigado News and Profile

The Colombia-Hezbollah laundering system reportedly begins in Europe, from where millions of euros worth of profits from drug sales are transported to the Middle East, via an intricate network of money couriers. The funds are then sent back to drug traffickers in Colombia through Hawala -- an informal distribution system that uses brokers to transfer money and currency. A large amount of these proceeds reportedly transit through Lebanon, and a "significant percentage" remains in Hezbollah coffers.

These revelations come as part of an investigation into the Lebanese Canadian Bank.

"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," DEA Acting Deputy Administrator Jack Riley said in the press release.

InSight Crime Analysis

Links between drug trafficking and terrorist organizations is a reality in Latin America. However, assertions of wider narco-terrorism conspiracies should be approached with caution.

The DEA has been criticized for inducing individuals to commit so-called narco-terrorist acts with the aim of "exposing" how drug trafficking directly funds terrorist activities.

These operations against narco-terrorism are arguably a convenient way for the DEA to tap into more government funding -- a large amount of which has been redirected from drug enforcement to terrorism following the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

In many situations, undercover DEA agents set up scenarios that could arguably be considered entrapment in order to catch culprits red-handed. These set-ups often constitute the only tangible evidence of "narco-terrorism" when it comes to prosecuting the case.

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Money Laundering

That said, there is significant evidence that Hezbollah has indeed collaborated with criminal groups in Latin America, although links to established drug trafficking organizations have not been so evident. The United States has previously blacklisted Venezuelan and Colombian nationals for laundering money for the terrorist groups, and in 2014, it was reported that Lebanese traffickers were helping the Brazilian prison gang the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital -PCC) to access weapons.

If the allegations of links with Colombia's Oficina de Envigado crime syndicate are true, this could be one of the more convincing arguments that the Lebanese terrorist group has active links with drug trafficking networks in Latin America. 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

The power of Colombia's elites is founded upon one of the most unequal divisions of land in the world. As of the early 21st century, one percent of landowners own more than half the country's agricultural land.1  Under Spanish rule, Colombia's agriculture was organized on the hacienda...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras is currently one of the most violent countries on the planet that is not at war. The violence is carried out by transnational criminal organizations, local drug trafficking groups, gangs and corrupt security forces, among other actors. Violence is the focal point for the international aid...

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Organized crime and the violence associated with it is the preeminent problem in Latin America and the Caribbean today. The region is currently home to six of the most violent countries in the world that are not at war. Four of those countries are in Central America...

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

In a new report based on extensive field research, InSight Crime and the Asociacion para una Sociedad mas Justa have traced how Honduras' two largest gangs, the MS13 and the Barrio 18, are evolving, and how their current modus operandi has resulted in staggering levels of violence...

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Transnational organized crime likes opportunities and little resistance. Bolivia currently provides both and finds itself at the heart of a new criminal dynamic that threatens national and citizen security in this landlocked Andean nation.

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The mad scramble for criminal power in the aftermath of the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) is over. The Urabeños, or as they prefer to call themselves, the "Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia," have won.

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Faced with the government's failure to rein in the criminals, communities across crime-besieged Mexico have been trying for years to organize effective civic resistance. Michoacan's vigilantes express the most extreme response by society to date, but other efforts have been less belligerent. In battle-torn cities along the...

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

If Uruguay's proposal to regulate the production, sale and distribution of marijuana is properly implemented and overcomes political and economic hurdles, it could be the most important drug regulation experiment in decades.