The chart on the right shows the intricate money-laundering system the Lebanese Canadian Bank used to divert money to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, according to United States officials. (The NYT, Dec 13, 2011). And on June 25, 2013, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney announced “$102 Million settlement of civil forfeiture and money laundering claims against the Lebanese Canadian Bank. The “settlement resolves claims related to money laundering network for narcotics trafficking and other criminal proceeds, including funds used to support Hizballah.” Why did the Justice Department settle with the bank? Why was the bank allowed to continue its operations?
On Monday, in Washington, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced the arrest of operatives of Iran-sponsored Hezbollah’s External Security Organization Business Affairs Component (BAC) for trafficking in cocaine into the U.S. and Europe and laundering millions of dollars of their ill-gotten gains into the coffers of Hezbollah, often through the same Lebanese Canadian Bank or its subsidiaries. In addition, assets of companies and individuals affiliated with the group’s drug trafficking and money laundering activities have been frozen. Lebanese banks and their subsidiaries have helped launder the money, as they have done for decades. However, only last December, shortly before lifting the sanctions on Iran, President Obama signed the bill which “imposes mandatory sanctions on banks that knowingly conduct business with Hezbollah.”
The Lebanon-based Iran affiliated Hezbollah has enjoyed Tehran’s support since its inception the early 1980s. Iran has been sponsoring the terrorist group’s attacks on Israel and assisted in Hezbollah’s international expansion and attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets abroad. At the same time, Iran always encouraged Hezbollah members to generate more funds through illegal activities, such as arms and drug trafficking, money laundering, fraud, smuggling counterfeit products, used cars and car parts and everything else.
Strangely, in Washington, former Treasury officials suggested that the U.S 1997 designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and declining support from Iran forced the group to seek funding elsewhere.
In fact, the escalation of the war in Syria in 2011 led to increase in Iranian funding, weapons and even soldiers who join Hezbollah’s fighting. The sanctions against Iran did not impede its generous support of Hezbollah’s efforts to attack Israel.
In May 2015, Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper, As-Safir, reported that the terrorist group has increased its preparations to attack Israel. “The group has built… tunnels, bunkers and surveillance outposts along the border with Israel… with durable concrete, a 24-hour power supply via underground generators, a ventilation system to prevent damp from damaging military equipment and a web of secondary escape shafts in case of attack. The tunnels… housing tens of thousands of rockets ready for launch.”
Moreover, last August, Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV reported that anticipating the lifting of the sanctions, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah that the nuclear agreement between Tehran and the West has “created a historic opportunity to [sic] for regional cooperation to fight extremism and face threats posed by the Zionist entity.” A month later, Israel Time reported that soon after the nuclear deal was signed on July 15, 2015, “Iran has significantly increased its financial support for two of the largest terror groups in the region that have become political players, Hamas and Hezbollah.” Similar statements were made last September by Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan. Rest assure that some of the billions of dollars awarded to Iran by the Obama administration will bolster the enemies of Israel and the U.S.
On the same day that the DEA announced the arrest of Hezbollah’s drug traffickers and money launderers, the European Commission, announced its new proposed plan “to strengthen the fight against terrorist financing” by “Disrupting the sources of revenue of terrorist organisations.” The efforts will focus on “Illicit trade from occupied areas is currently a primary source of revenue for terrorist organisations, including trade in cultural goods and the illicit wildlife trade. They can also gain from trade in legal goods.” However, drug trafficking, which is the major source of terrorist financing (aside of the $100 billion awarded to Iran) is missing from the list.