Hezbollah's Suspected Drug Trade Links

The United States government has always accused that at least parts of Hezbollah’s funding come from drugs. Hezbollah however have always denied accusations that they have any links to the drug trade saying that it is "un-Islamic" that same reason has been used by other organisations classed as terrorist organisations such as the Taliban. The Taliban believe drugs are "un-Islamic" and in 2000 the Taliban started an aggressive campaign to destroy opium poppy cultivation and during that time 99% of all opium poppy cultivations within Taliban controlled area were destroyed. The fact that there are drug growing in the Bekaa valley in Lebanon (A Hezbollah Stronghold) seems to indicate that there is at the very least a remote link between Hezbollah and the drug trade.

Though it is important to note that the word ‘drugs’ is something which can be used to slander the moral integrity of organisations including Islamic organisations such as Hezbollah who have repeatedly said that drugs are "un-Islamic". The links between Hezbollah and the drug trade are all speculation and accusations headed by the US and Israeli governments both of which have a vested interest in Hezbollah being slandered with such accusations and it has helped the US treasury in its attempt to legitimise the reasoning behind blacklisting the Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB).

The United States government accuses the Hezbollah drug trade as going further than just the Bekaa valley. According to the US government, Hezbollah operates a drug trading route which stretches into South America and Western Africa where a significant percentage of the population have Lebanese roots. Places like Brazil where there are over 6 million people with Lebanese roots and the Ivory Coast where there are 80,000. Due to the large number of Lebanese related communities overseas it means there is a higher likelihood that some of them would be sympathetic to Hezbollah’s cause and may be willing to help them. It is believed by in particular the US government that Hezbollah uses its links within these communities to facilitate the movement of drugs from South America bound for the European drug markets. This all of course is purely rumours by the Western based media’s and governments, admittedly most of the Lebanese diaspora are doing legitimate business.

In South America the main area which has gained particular attention in recent years for its rumoured links to terrorism organisations and the drug trade is The Tri-Border Area. The Tri-Border Area is the area where Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil meet. It is often thought of as lawless and an area where drug smuggling runs rampant. The fact that the borders between the three countries are often unprotected also means that a person can easily move from one jurisdiction to another if need be, providing an extra layer of security for drug smugglers. The amount of money being laundered through this area is thought to be astronomical too. For instance just two cities in the Tri-Border area, Foz do Iguacu and Ciudad del Este according to some sources have about $12 billion worth of drug money laundered through them annually.

According to some observers the Tri-Border area is where Hezbollah could be basing its operations in South America. This is based on the big assumption that with the large Lebanese community and the lawlessness of the area it makes it a perfect location for Hezbollah to base its operations. The RAND Corporation is one of those who believe Hezbollah is operating in the tri-border area and it estimates that Hezbollah gets $20 million of its funding a year from the Tri-Border Area. That is roughly one fifth of the estimated amount that Iran is thought to give Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s operations in the area are therefore (if true) very important in helping to raise the finances it needs, especially after the Lebanon war meaning that Hezbollah are in the process of rearming itself.

The drugs from the Tri-Border Area are thought to be destined for Europe. To get there smugglers, who potentially have links with Hezbollah, use a drug route which goes through countries that firstly have a large Lebanese population but secondly countries which have thin layers of security. Venezuela is usually singled out by the US as the first stop due to the fact that both Hezbollah and Venezuela apparently have friendly links with Iran, both of them have been accused of having links to FARC and there is a substantial Lebanese community of over 100,000 in Venezuela. The Iran link between Hezbollah is often mentioned by some sectors of the American media as the principle reason in accusing Venezuela of apparently helping Hezbollah smuggle drugs. However that seems a bit of an exaggeration particularly since Iran isn’t really thought of as a drug loving country and has been praised by UN for its anti-drug efforts. It seems slightly ironic that America has been so aggressive against Hezbollah and its apparent drug trade when in the 1970’s America had no problems helping the Contra with their drug trade.

From Venezuela they are transported by ship to Western Africa so that they can be moved onto Europe. Western Africa in many parts remains lawless, corrupt and lacking in law enforcement making it ideal as a transit point on the way to Europe. For drug traders related to Hezbollah it is even more lucrative because of the fact that like many parts of South America there is a substantial number of communities with Lebanese roots; with 80,000 Lebanese in the Ivory Coast and 10,000 in Senegal. The fact that there is quite a substantial number of people with Lebanese roots in these countries means that to some commentators there could be some willing to help with Hezbollah’s rumoured drug trade.

There is some evidence in the Arab media that there is quite a bit of support for Hezbollah in Western Africa. Take the example UTA 141 a flight from Benin bound for Lebanon which crashed shortly after take-off. According to Arab press reports a "foreign relations official" for Hezbollah’s African branch was on-board and died in the crash. He was rumoured to be carrying $2 million worth of donations from wealthy Lebanese based in Africa. Though many who donated run legitimate businesses it does highlight the support that Hezbollah have in Western Africa amongst the Lebanese expatriates and communities.

Western Africa is thought of as transfer point; the real destination for the drug smugglers is the lucrative markets of Europe. The profits generated in Europe from the drug trade are then allegedly (according to the US Treasury) laundered back to Hezbollah through places like the Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB).  The LCB at the start of 2011 was blacklisted by The US Treasury Department because of the accusations of South American related drug money being laundered through it.

The accusation that Hezbollah is involved in the South American drug trade are however disputed by Hezbollah who have constantly claimed that drugs are "un-Islamic" but also the countries which make up the Tri-Border Area have denied the claim that there are terrorist organisations operating within the area. Hezbollah is also not the only alleged terrorist organisation which is accused of using the drug trade to help finance their operations. According to Peter Pham (familysecuritymatters.org) Al Qaeda apparently are also involved in the drug trade by protecting FARC cocaine shipments through Northern Africa and into Europe.

If there is any truth to the claims that Hezbollah is complicit and an active part of the drug trade in South America and that it is worth at least $20 million to Hezbollah then its future importance to Hezbollah cannot be underestimated. As sanctions put increasing pressure on Iran’s economy, Hezbollah’s apparent funds from Iran may be reduced and it may force them into raising funds through other means such as increasing the amount of drugs smuggled into Europe. The exact nature of Hezbollah’s drug activities in South America is however very hard to ascertain due to the fact that information on Hezbollah’s activities are hard to come by and are riddled by assumptions and conflicting reports. There are certainly donations from Lebanese linked communities (A lot of it earned through legitimate means) but the extent of drug money coming into Hezbollah is purely guesswork.

In South America the main area which has gained particular attention in recent years for its rumoured links to terrorism organisations and the drug trade is The Tri-Border Area. The Tri-Border Area is the area where Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil meet. It is often thought of as lawless and an area where drug smuggling runs rampant. The fact that the borders between the three countries are often unprotected also means that a person can easily move from one jurisdiction to another if need be, providing an extra layer of security for drug smugglers. The amount of money being laundered through this area is thought to be astronomical too. For instance just two cities in the Tri-Border area, Foz do Iguacu and Ciudad del Este according to some sources have about $12 billion worth of drug money laundered through them annually.

According to some observers the Tri-Border area is where Hezbollah could be basing its operations in South America. This is based on the big assumption that with the large Lebanese community and the lawlessness of the area it makes it a perfect location for Hezbollah to base its operations. The RAND Corporation is one of those who believe Hezbollah is operating in the tri-border area and it estimates that Hezbollah gets $20 million of its funding a year from the Tri-Border Area. That is roughly one fifth of the estimated amount that Iran is thought to give Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s operations in the area are therefore (if true) very important in helping to raise the finances it needs, especially after the Lebanon war meaning that Hezbollah are in the process of rearming itself.

The drugs from the Tri-Border Area are thought to be destined for Europe. To get there smugglers, who potentially have links with Hezbollah, use a drug route which goes through countries that firstly have a large Lebanese population but secondly countries which have thin layers of security. Venezuela is usually singled out by the US as the first stop due to the fact that both Hezbollah and Venezuela apparently have friendly links with Iran, both of them have been accused of having links to FARC and there is a substantial Lebanese community of over 100,000 in Venezuela. The Iran link between Hezbollah is often mentioned by some sectors of the American media as the principle reason in accusing Venezuela of apparently helping Hezbollah smuggle drugs. However that seems a bit of an exaggeration particularly since Iran isn’t really thought of as a drug loving country and has been praised by UN for its anti-drug efforts. It seems slightly ironic that America has been so aggressive against Hezbollah and its apparent drug trade when in the 1970’s America had no problems helping the Contra with their drug trade.

From Venezuela they are transported by ship to Western Africa so that they can be moved onto Europe. Western Africa in many parts remains lawless, corrupt and lacking in law enforcement making it ideal as a transit point on the way to Europe. For drug traders related to Hezbollah it is even more lucrative because of the fact that like many parts of South America there is a substantial number of communities with Lebanese roots; with 80,000 Lebanese in the Ivory Coast and 10,000 in Senegal. The fact that there is quite a substantial number of people with Lebanese roots in these countries means that to some commentators there could be some willing to help with Hezbollah’s rumoured drug trade.

There is some evidence in the Arab media that there is quite a bit of support for Hezbollah in Western Africa. Take the example UTA 141 a flight from Benin bound for Lebanon which crashed shortly after take-off. According to Arab press reports a "foreign relations official" for Hezbollah’s African branch was on-board and died in the crash. He was rumoured to be carrying $2 million worth of donations from wealthy Lebanese based in Africa. Though many who donated run legitimate businesses it does highlight the support that Hezbollah have in Western Africa amongst the Lebanese expatriates and communities.

Western Africa is thought of as transfer point; the real destination for the drug smugglers is the lucrative markets of Europe. The profits generated in Europe from the drug trade are then allegedly (according to the US Treasury) laundered back to Hezbollah through places like the Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB).  The LCB at the start of 2011 was blacklisted by The US Treasury Department because of the accusations of South American related drug money being laundered through it.

The accusation that Hezbollah is involved in the South American drug trade are however disputed by Hezbollah who have constantly claimed that drugs are "un-Islamic" but also the countries which make up the Tri-Border Area have denied the claim that there are terrorist organisations operating within the area. Hezbollah is also not the only alleged terrorist organisation which is accused of using the drug trade to help finance their operations. According to Peter Pham (familysecuritymatters.org) Al Qaeda apparently are also involved in the drug trade by protecting FARC cocaine shipments through Northern Africa and into Europe.

If there is any truth to the claims that Hezbollah is complicit and an active part of the drug trade in South America and that it is worth at least $20 million to Hezbollah then its future importance to Hezbollah cannot be underestimated. As sanctions put increasing pressure on Iran’s economy, Hezbollah’s apparent funds from Iran may be reduced and it may force them into raising funds through other means such as increasing the amount of drugs smuggled into Europe. The exact nature of Hezbollah’s drug activities in South America is however very hard to ascertain due to the fact that information on Hezbollah’s activities are hard to come by and are riddled by assumptions and conflicting reports. There are certainly donations from Lebanese linked communities (A lot of it earned through legitimate means) but the extent of drug money coming into Hezbollah is purely guesswork.

The link however according mainly to the United States government stretches further than just the Bekaa valley. According to some, Hezbollah operates a drug trading route which stretches into South America and Western Africa where a significant percentage of the population have Lebanese roots. Places like Brazil where there are over 6 million people with Lebanese roots and the Ivory Coast where there are 80,000. Due to the large number of Lebanese related communities overseas it means there is a higher likelihood that some of them would be sympathetic to Hezbollah’s cause and may be willing to help them. It is believed by in particular the US government that Hezbollah uses its links within these communities to facilitate the movement of drugs from South America bound for the European drug markets. This all of course is purely rumours by the Western based media’s and governments, admittedly most of the Lebanese diaspora are doing legitimate business.