The Hizbullah Drug Money Plot Makes No Sense
Today's long NYT piece Beirut Bank Seen as a Hub of Hezbollah’s Financing doesn't make sense:
Last February, the Obama administration accused one of Lebanon’s famously secretive banks of laundering money for an international cocaine ring with ties to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
Now, in the wake of the bank’s exposure and arranged sale, its ledgers have been opened to reveal deeper secrets: a glimpse at the clandestine methods that Hezbollah — a terrorist organization in American eyes that has evolved into Lebanon’s pre-eminent military and political power — uses to finance its operations. The books offer evidence of an intricate global money-laundering apparatus that, with the bank as its hub, appeared to let Hezbollah move huge sums of money into the legitimate financial system, despite sanctions aimed at cutting off its economic lifeblood.
There is nothing in the piece that really relates to Hizbollah but some administration assertions.
In that inquiry, American Treasury officials said senior bank managers had assisted a handful of account holders in running a scheme to wash drug money by mixing it with the proceeds of used cars bought in the United States and sold in Africa. A cut of the profits, officials said, went to Hezbollah, a link the organization disputes.
The officials have refused to disclose their evidence for that allegation.
Why would Hizbollah get "a cut" from some rather random bank business? There is no explanation for that assertion but this:
As the case traveled up the administration’s chain of command beginning in the fall of 2010, some officials proposed leaving the Hezbollah link unsaid. They argued that simply blacklisting the bank would disrupt the network while insulating the United States from suspicions of playing politics, especially amid American alarm about ebbing influence in the Middle East. But the prevailing view was that the case offered what one official called “a great opportunity to dirty up Hezbollah” by pointing out the hypocrisy of the “Party of God” profiting from criminal activity.
So if making anti-Hizbullah propaganda is the stated purposes of the case why should anyone take it for real?
The case involved the typical DEA sting which allows DEA itself to smuggle drugs and to launder money. But when a trail was hot:
The C.I.A., initially skeptical of a Hezbollah link, now wanted in on the case. On the eve of a planned meeting in Jordan, it forced the undercover agent to postpone. His quarry spooked. In the end, Mr. Harb was convicted on federal drug trafficking and money-laundering charges, but the window into the organization’s heart had slammed shut.
It was “like having a girl you love break up with you,” one agent said later, adding, “We lost everything.”
One wonders if the "we lost everything" here has a wider meaning and is describing the reported recent blow up of the CIA's networks in Lebanon and Iran. Just last week Hizbullah named ten CIA agents in Lebanon and explained their methods.
Now we come to used-car-salesman:
Eventually an American team dispatched to look into Mr. Joumaa’s activities uncovered the used-car operation. Cars bought in United States were sold in Africa, with cash proceeds flown into Beirut and deposited into three money-exchange houses, one owned by Mr. Joumaa’s family and another down the street from his hotel. The exchanges then deposited the money, the ostensible proceeds of a booming auto trade, into the Lebanese Canadian Bank, so named because it was once a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Canada Middle East.
But the numbers did not add up. The car lots in the United States, many owned by Lebanese émigrés and one linked to a separate Hezbollah weapons-smuggling scheme, were not moving nearly enough merchandise to account for all that cash, American officials said. What was really going on, they concluded, was that European drug proceeds were being intermingled with the car-sale cash to make it appear legitimate.
Emptywheel suspects a deep relation between this alleged plot and the used-car-salesman "Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador" that no one believes.
The court datelines in both cases point to a relation and both involve DEA stings of some bumpkins. The cases are then used for primitive U.S. propaganda operations against Iran and its friends.
What should be a bit concerning to some is that the recent level of DEA/CIA operations appears to be so unsophisticated that is looks amateurish when compared to the capabilities of other services.
Posted by b on December 14, 2011 at 01:29 PM | Permalink
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