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Friday, November 16, 2007

Piracy, the Tri-Border Area and terrorism

In Paraguay, Piracy Bleeds U.S. Profits, Aids Terrorists
Some 25,000 Lebanese nationals live in the Tri-Border. American officials say Middle East terror groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah are receiving huge amounts of money from the region's illegal activities. So much that it has become a very important source of terrorist support. How important?

"It’s critically important from the standpoint of consistency," said Dennis Lormel, an investigator with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "The tri-border area is probably the most lucrative area for Hezbollah outside of the state sponsors."
"We had agents specifically assigned who overlooked Hezbollah and they recognized very quickly that they needed to focus on the Tri-border area," Lormel said. "Certainly with the corruption in the area and all the demographics and logistics, the Tri-border are is a very attractive area to operate from."

Authorities say that from the Tri-Border, Hezbollah launched the terrorist attacks that destroyed the Israeli embassy and the Jewish Cultural Center in Argentina in the 1990s, killing 114 people.

The situation has drawn the attention of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who says hundreds of millions of dollars coming out of the region is being laundered through New York banks.

"Huge Flow of Money"

"Between $50 million to $500 million goes to Hamas and Hezbollah," Morgenthau said. "On a quiet day, $4 trillion goes through New York, so it's relatively easy to hide a million or a billion dollars when you have this huge flow of money."
In Paraguay, however, Hezbollah is not considered a terrorist organization, and there are no laws against donating to terror groups.
Background posts:
Hezbollah in Latin America: history
Hezbollah in Latin America

This afternoon I'll be on The Gathering Storm's podcast at 3:30PM Eastern. The call-in number is (646) 915-9870. WC of The Gathering Storm blog and Always on Watch are the hosts.

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At 9:44 PM, Blogger A Jacksonian said...

Hezbollah is one of the most money savvy terrorist organizations on the planet. They not only get the idea that such things as Intellectual Property theft can yield high profits on low outlay, but they even learned that investing in large front organizations, like Paraguayan shopping malls, gives them a great cover to do just about anything they want.

Its not *just* narcotics with them - grey market goods, pirated software, training of other groups, far east pharma trade, knock offs from Chinese factories in clothes and other goods, and your every day cigarette smuggling and credit card fraud. Really quite the conglomerate as these things go. That is what happens when you let such as these go unpunished: they become emboldened and more deeply rooted. Today the offshoots of Hezbollah are self-sufficient for ongoing operations outside of heavy equipment and the overseas groups (Bosnia, Algeria, TBA, Caribbean, Chechnya) don't need money from Iran as they already have their regular funding sources to supply them.

Even if we got Iran *tomorrow* and the name of every individual in Hezbollah, the organization itself would not only continue to exist, but to expand.


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