Project Cassandra

From Conservapedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Red arrows: purchase and flow of used cars in America to be shipped to Africa. Yellow arrows: cocaine smuggling from South America to the United States, Africa, and Europe; drugs were shipped to Africa along with the used cars. The used cars were recorded as being purchased at inflated prices, with cash from illegal drug sales in the United States deposited in bank accounts. Green arrows: the flow of cash back to Hezbollah in Beirut, with some freshly laundered cash sent back to America for purchase of more used cars.

Project Cassandra was a task force headed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after evidence amassed that Hezbollah transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military and political organization into a global crime syndicate. The Obama White House at the highest levels thwarted the investigation as a concession to the government of Iran to win the ill-conceived Iranian nuclear deal.

Between 2008–2016, agents working out of a top-secret DEA facility in Virginia, used wiretaps, undercover operations, and informants to map Hezbollah’s illicit networks, with the help of 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies.

Agents followed cocaine shipments, some from Latin America to West Africa and on to Europe and the Middle East, and others through Venezuela and Mexico to the United States. They tracked the river of dirty cash as it was laundered. And with the help of some key cooperating witnesses, the agents traced the conspiracy, to the innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran.

As Project Cassandra reached higher into the hierarchy of the conspiracy, Obama administration officials threw an increasingly insurmountable series of roadblocks in its way. When Project Cassandra leaders sought approval for some significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions, officials at the Justice and Treasury departments delayed, hindered or rejected their requests.

The Justice Department declined requests by Project Cassandra and other authorities to file criminal charges against major players such as Hezbollah’s high-profile envoy to Iran, a Lebanese bank that allegedly laundered billions in alleged drug profits, and a central player in a U.S.-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force. And the State Department rejected requests to lure high-value targets to countries where they could be arrested.

“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” said David Asher, Veteran U.S. illicit finance expert sent from Pentagon to Project Cassandra to attack the alleged Hezbollah criminal enterprise., who helped establish and oversee Project Cassandra as a Defense Department illicit finance analyst. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”

Hezbollah

Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based terrorist organization formed in approximately 1982, is responsible for some of the deadliest terrorist attacks against the United States in history. Hezbollah is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, a Specially Designated Terrorist and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. As a result, pursuant to IEEPA, all assets in the United States in which Hezbollah has an interest are blocked, and any transaction or dealing with such property, or providing goods or services to Hezbollah, is prohibited in the United States.

DEA investigators believed Hezbollah is collecting $1 billion a year from narcotics and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities. Hezbollah — in league with Iran — continues to undermine U.S. interests in Iraq, Syria and throughout wide swaths of Latin America and Africa, including providing weapons and training to anti-American Shiite and Sunni militias.

Criminal funding

The Lebanese Shiite Terrorist Organization has been highlighted as a profile in "Crime and Terrorism" - Hezbollah's Criminal activity is widespread in Lebanon and worldwide,[1] or what researchers call: "various criminal enterprises to raise funds for Hezbollah." [2] Among the illegal, criminal methods of the Islamic group is wide fraud, drug trafficking, credit card fraud & cigarette smuggling, it has been known that "Cigarette Smuggling Funds Terrorism." [3] [4] In a 2009 report on "Hezbollah: narco-Islamism Middle East Strategy at Harvard" researchers have found that: 'more than any other Islamist group, Hezbollah has a long record of engaging in criminal activity to support its activities.' [5] [6]

Latin America

The 'Hezbollah's global finance network' includes "The Triple Frontier" (in South America) - "Argentina, Brasil & Paraguay").[7][8]

There's an extensive report on "Hezbollah and the Drug Trade in South America" - Hezbollah is active in the drug trade in Colombia, a web of criminality that extends from Lebanon to Africa to South America. [9]

Douglas Farah wrote in 2006 on "Hezbollah’s External Support Network in West Africa and Latin America" that Hezbollah, has the largest financial structure in Latin America and it is similar to that of the organization’s Africa structure, that is to say, structured along family/clan lines. These clans have family members across the continent’s main free trade zones of Panama, (Venezuela's) Isla Margarita and the TBA (tri-border area), allowing for multiple opportunities to launder funds by over invoicing stocks, under invoicing merchandise and through the use of little-monitored electronic money transfer systems and bulk money smuggling. The first study of this overlapping clan structure spread across broad geographic areas was not undertaken until 2004.

The TBA has for years drawn attention as a center for contraband smuggling, drug trafficking and large-scale money laundering, in part because all of the countries whose borders are involved profit from the illicit trade. It is also an easy place to hide and move money. Estimates of the amount of drug money alone laundered through the two main urban centers in the TBA, Foz do Iguacu and Ciudad del Este, range as high as $12 billion a year. [10]

From a 2003 research on Hezbollah "Hezbollah: A Case Study of Global Reach": Hezbollah is also active in Chile, Venezuela, Cuba, Panama and Ecuador. [11]

Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson wrote in 2007 in an article titled "Blood Money: Hezbollah's revenue stream flows through the Americas":
A New Front. Hezbollah operatives have frequently sought out sympathetic members of the Lebanese Diaspora to assist them, several of whom have owned and operated Lebanese restaurants. Salim Boughader Mucharrafille, owner of Cafe La Libanesa in Tijuana, Mexico, was arrested in December 2002 for running a ring that allegedly smuggled at least 200 Lebanese compatriots into the United States, including an employee of Al- Manar, Hezbollah's television station. Although it was never confirmed, Boughader was suspected of having helped Kourani to slip over the border. Last May, a Mexican judge sentenced Boughader to 14 years in prison for organized crime and human smuggling.


The case of Rady Zaiter, a.k.a. David Assi Alvarez, is an example of drug-running activities designed to benefit Hezbollah, using a restaurant as a front. In June 2005, Ecuadorian police broke up an international drug-trafficking ring led by the owners of El Turco restaurant: Zaiter and his partner, Maher Hamajo. The restaurant in Quito served as the logistical center for the ring's activities. Drug mules carried cocaine in double bottomed suitcases bound for other countries in South America, as well as Europe and the Middle East. According to investigating authorities, Hezbollah received at least 70 percent of the drug money. Additionally, officials confiscated more than $150,000 and 2,000 euros. Further arrests were made in Brazil, Syria and the Dutch Antilles, bringing the total apprehended to 19 people. El Turco, like the Detroit-area restaurant La Shish that was recently allegedly linked to Hezbollah, was a very popular restaurant, appreciated by the locals.

[12]

In 2008, Colombia smashed a drug ring tied to Hezbollah, Colombian authorities said that they had broken up a drug and money-laundering ring in an international operation that included the capture of three suspects from the Middle East who used profits from the drug trade to fund Hezbollah.

More than 100 suspects were arrested in Colombia and overseas on charges that they trafficked drugs and laundered cash for Colombia’s Norte del Valle cartel and outlawed paramilitaries, in a network that stretched from South America to Asia. "The criminal organization used routes through Venezuela, Panama, Guatemala, the Middle East and Europe, bringing in cash from the sale of these substances," the statement said. [13][14]

From 'Inside Homeland Security' 2009:
Muslim businessmen operating companies in Panama "for many years" have laundered funds for Hezbollah, Hamas and the PLO.[15]

U.S.

The Washington Times had an editorial (2005) on 'Hezbollah in America,' a 41-year-old businessman, was arrested at his Dearborn home on charges of smuggling funds to Hezbollah.[16] In 2009, a grand jury in Philadelphia indicted four men in connection with a plot to support Hezbollah through schemes like buying machine guns.[17]

Al-Mabarrat has a U.S.-based branch headquartered in Dearborn, Mich. Founded in 1991, the Al-Mabarrat Charitable Organization-USA, Inc., has repeatedly changed its name over the past 15 years. Although Al-Mabarrat acknowledges on its Web site that it works in conjunction with the Al-Mabarrat Association in Lebanon (whose logo it shares), it omits the fact that Al-Mabarrat Lebanon is run by Sheikh Fadlallah. Despite Al- Mabarrat USA's direct link to a Fadlallah-controlled organization, the U.S. branch continues to operate unfettered.

Hezbollah's use of Al-Mabarrat as a fund-raising front is a savvy strategic move, mirroring a tactic long exploited by terrorist groups operating on U.S. soil. By utilizing charities, terrorists can generate popular support by providing some legitimate services, attract contributions from donors both unwitting and aware, and attempt to obscure financial trails. But such operations extend far beyond the United States. [12]

In October 2011, it was revealed that a suspect in an Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi ambassador to the US, is linked to Hezbollah.[18]

Europe

There's a serious "Hezbollah's Terrorist Threat to the European Union" writes The Heritage (2007) .[19] From a report on "Hezbollah Around the World" - Arabs, Muslims in Germany have been a key fundraising center for Hezbollah through crimes of drug trafficking, weapons and people smuggling, document and currency fraud.[20] From a May 2010 report: 'Hezbollah funded by drug trade in Europe,' German police arrested Lebanese men who transferred millions of Euros to family connected to Hezbollah. [21][22]

Hezbollah has established several front charities, mainly operating from United Kingdom and Germany, to raise funds earmarked to support the group's members in Lebanon. For example, the U-based Lebanese Welfare Committee, HELP Charity Association for Relief and Abrar Islamic Foundation are among the charities suspected of channeling funds to Sheikh Nasrallah and Hezbollah. [12]

U.S. Mexican border

Hezbollah is also accused of using the same southern narcotics routes that Mexican drug kingpins use, that Hezbollah members have entered the U.S. border through drug cartel. [23][24] The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote an article on ‎Apr 10, 2009, "The Hezbollah threat: It's here, now." [25]

Money laundering

From approximately Jan. 1, 2007, to early 2011, at least $329 million was transferred by wire from the Lebanese Canadian Bank, the Hassan Ayash Exchange Company, the Ellissa Exchange Company and other Lebanese financial institutions, including Middle East and Africa Bank, the Federal Bank of Lebanon and BLOM Bank, to the United States for the purchase and shipment of used cars with the help of 300 or so used car dealerships. The car buyers in the United States typically had little or no property or assets other than the bank accounts used to receive the overseas wire transfers. The cars were primarily shipped to Cotonou, Benin, where they were housed and sold from large car parks, including one owned by the Ellissa Group, a subsidiary of Ellissa Holding.

A significant portion of the cash proceeds from the car sales was transported to Lebanon by a Hezbollah-controlled system of money couriers, cash smugglers, hawaladars and currency brokers. A network of money couriers controlled by Oussama Salhab, an alleged Hezbollah operative living in Togo, transported tens of millions of dollars and Euros from Benin to Lebanon through Togo and Ghana. Salhab and his relatives also own and control Cybamar Swiss GMBH LCC, a transportation company based in Michigan that was frequently used to ship cars to West Africa, as well as other entities involved in the scheme. Cash transported from West Africa was often received at the Beirut airport, where Hezbollah security safeguarded its passage to its final destination.

This same used car, Hezbollah-controlled money laundering infrastructure is used to conceal and funnel hundreds of millions of dollars in narcotics proceeds from West Africa back to Lebanon. Ayman Joumaa’s drug trafficking organization, which operates in Lebanon, West Africa, Panama and Colombia, launders as much as $200 million in proceeds per month, through various channels, including bulk cash smuggling operations and Lebanese exchange houses. Joumaa’s organization uses Hezbollah couriers to transport and launder narcotics proceeds, and pays fees to Hezbollah operatives to facilitate the laundering of narcotics proceeds.

In 2007 and 2008, approximately $1.2 billion in declared U.S. currency was transported across the Togo/Ghana border on its way from Benin to the airport in Accra, where the cash could be further shipped.

Criminal suspects

Since Obama shut down Project Cassandra, Abdallah Safieddine and a mysterious character known only as the Ghost and other associates continue to play central roles in the trafficking of drugs and weapons, current and former U.S. officials believe.

Abdallah Safieddine

Lebanese Hezbollah’s longtime envoy to Iran who allegedly oversaw the group's “Business Affairs Component” involved in international drug trafficking. Safieddine is a cousin to Lebanese Hezbollah boss Hassan Nasrallah.

Safieddine oversees Hezbollah efforts to help Iran procure parts and technology for its clandestine nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

"the Ghost"

One of the most mysterious alleged associates of Abdallah Safieddine, secretly indicted by the United States. Project Cassandra task force agents came to regard the Ghost as the most important on-the-ground operator in the conspiracy because of his suspected role in moving drugs, money and munitions, including multi-ton loads of cocaine, into the United States, and WMD components to the Middle East, according to two former senior U.S. officials.

The Ghost was also in business with another suspected Safieddine associate, Ali Fayad

The Ghost and Ayman Joumaa were living in Beirut, and Project Cassandra agents were so familiar with their routines that they knew at which cafe the two men gathered every morning to drink espresso and “discuss drug trafficking, money laundering and weapons,” one of the two former officials said.

Ayman Saied Joumaa

Accused drug kingpin and financier whose vast network allegedly smuggled tons of cocaine into the U.S. with Mexico’s Zetas cartel and laundered money. Joumaa's opetation launders as much as $200 million in proceeds per month.

Ali Fayad

(aka Fayyad). Ukraine-based arms merchant suspected of being a Hezbollah operative moving large amounts of weapons to Syria. Fayad has long been instrumental in providing weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq, including through the deadly IED network that had killed so many U.S. troops during the Iraq insurgency, the former officials believed.

Task force agents had information that Fayad, a joint Lebanese and Ukrainian citizen, and the Ghost were involved in moving conventional and chemical weapons into Syria for Hezbollah, Iran and Russia to help President Assad crush the insurgency against his regime that began in 2011.

Fayad also served as a Ukrainian defense ministry adviser under former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych,[26] worked for the state-owned arms exporter Ukrspecexport and appeared to have taken Viktor Anatolyevich Bout place as Vladimir Putin’s go-to arms merchant. Bout was convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to Colombian FARC narcoterrorists.

When Fayad’s name surfaced in a DEA investigation in West Africa as a senior Hezbollah weapons trafficker, agents created a sting operation, with undercover operatives posing as Colombian FARC narcoterrorists plotting to shoot down American government helicopters. Fayad offered his expert advice, and after agreeing to provide them with 20 Russian-made shoulder-fired Igla surface-to-air missiles (MANPADS), 400 rocket-propelled grenades and various firearms and rocket launchers for $8.3 million, he was arrested in Prague by Czech authorities on a U.S. warrant in April 2014, U.S. court records show.

See also

References

  1. http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hezbollah.htm
  2. http://www.amazon.com/Lightning-Out-Lebanon-Hezbollah-Terrorists/dp/0345475682
  3. https://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2005/2/13/135754.shtml
  4. http://www.goofigure.com/UserGoofigureDetail.asp?gooID=5094
  5. http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/mesh/2009/03/hezbollah-narco-islamism/
  6. http://counterterrorismblog.org/2007/11/hezbollah_financing_through_cr.php
  7. http://www.meib.org/articles/0201_l2.htm
  8. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/HH03Aa01.html
  9. http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/testimony/313.pdf
  10. http://www.strategycenter.net/research/pubID.118/pub_detail.asp
  11. http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/print.php?template=C07&CID=132
  12. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named emerson
  13. https://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/22/world/americas/22colombia.html
  14. http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/a-13-2008-10-22-voa37-66602227.html
  15. http://www.insidehomelandsecurity.com/articles/news/59/15/The-Rise-of-Islamist-Extremism-in-Latin-America
  16. http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20050519-092915-7312r.htm
  17. https://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/25/us/25philly.html?_r=1
  18. Saudi ambassador assassination plot suspect linked to Hezbollah and Bahrain unrest Al-Arabiya, 19 October 2011 http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/10/19/172590.html
  19. http://www.heritage.org/Research/Testimony/Hezbollahs-Terrorist-Threat-to-the-European-Union
  20. http://www.adl.org/main_Terrorism/hezbollah_overview.htm?Multi_page_sections=sHeading_7
  21. http://www.haaretz.com/news/report-hezbollah-funded-by-drug-trade-in-europe-1.261091
  22. http://www.thelocal.de/national/20100109-24465.html
  23. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/mar/27/hezbollah-uses-mexican-drug-routes-into-us/print/
  24. http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/hezbollah-using-drug-smuggling-routes/story.aspx?guid=%7BA14CB7E3-86EE-4ECE-A417-E31BF77E65FD%7D&dist=msr_2
  25. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/opinion/s_620146.html
  26. https://mideastwire.wordpress.com/2015/08/08/leila-hatoum-intelligence-warfare-the-missing-czech-nationals/