Hezbollah supporters in Beirut 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – A US indictment of a Lebanese druglord revealed on Tuesday the
close ties between Hezbollah and the drug cartels that have reduced parts of
Mexico to near battle zones in recent years.
Ayman Joumaa, 47, was
accused in absentia of conspiring to smuggle over 90,000 tons of cocaine into
America and laundering over $250 million for the cartels.
as a crossroads for the Colombia-manufactured drugs, which Joumaa helped to
smuggle between 2005 and 2007.
Although the US Treasury Department listed
Joumaa and another nine members of his cadre as Specially Designated Narcotics
Traffickers in January 2011, the Lebanese drug magnate is not in American
custody. The indictment was returned in absentia to a federal court’s grand jury
last month, but was unsealed this week. If caught and convicted of the charges
against him, Joumaa could face a lifetime in prison.
asserts that Joumaa made millions through his money-laundering operation,
receiving between an 8- and 14-percent cut for his services. In January, federal
authorities said that at least some of the money had been laundered through the
Lebanese Canadian Bank, itself designated by the US Treasury as “a primary
According to a lengthy exposé published by The
New York Times
, Joumaa is also “known to Israeli intelligence”, having allegedly
been in contact with a member of Hezbollah’s elite 1,800 Unit that coordinates
attacks against Israeli targets, and who, in turn, “worked for a senior
operative who the Israelis believed handled Hezbollah’s drug
Joumaa allegedly concealed the drug money as legitimate
income from a family-run company that resold American used cars in
The proceeds from the “car sales” were being funneled to the
suspect bank via Beirut exchange houses where, investigators believe, modest
earnings from actual car sales were intermingled with drug
According to the indictment, the money-laundering activities
spanned at least four continents, with way-stations in the United States,
Lebanon, Benin, Panama, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and
It is still unclear, however, at what point in the process
Hezbollah took its cut.
As revelations were made on Tuesday, US officials
focused instead on the role of the trafficker – known as “Junior” – in the
Mexican drug war.
“According to information from sources, his alleged
drug and money-laundering activities facilitated numerous global drug trafficking
organizations, including the criminal activities of the Los Zetas Mexican drug
cartel,” US Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Michele Leonhart
For years, members of the intelligence community have warned that
the Iranian-supported terrorist organization is deepening its ties in Central
and South America with an eye toward the tremendous income potential of the