The convergence of fund-raising by Hezbollah, the Lebanese group believed to be sponsored substantially by Iran, with transnational organised crime in Latin America is a serious threat to US national security according to a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies.
Emanuele Ottolenghi argues that the trade-based money laundering (TBML) operations of Hezbollah supporters and operatives extend into the US, posing a direct threat to the integrity of its financial system.
These illicit activities generate tens of millions of dollars for Hezbollah, while laundering money for local organised crime according to Ottolenghi.
He says these activities centre on the tri-border area where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay converge.
A US$1.2 billion money laundering investigation by Paraguayan authorities in November 2016, which a US state department report cites as evidence of corruption in Paraguay, offers proof of ongoing TBML in the area and a related cover-up by local authorities according to Ottolenghi.
He says local sources told him that the investigated companies were given 48 hours advance notice about the search warrants against them.
US officials familiar with the case privately complained of subsequent obstructionism at the highest levels of power preventing attempts by US law enforcement agencies to gain access to files. US offers to cooperate were politely but decisively rebuffed according to Ottolenghi.
The non-partisan Foundation for Defence of Democracies is a Washington-based think tank.
The article entitled ‘Hezbollah in Latin America is a threat the US cannot ignore’ in which Ottolenghi discusses TBML in the region can be found here.
Categories: Trade Based Financial crimes News