Three associates of Hizbullah party suspected of laundering cocaine money for the Colombian cartel have been busted after agents said they illegally moved $500,000 into Miami banks through a series of complicated financial transactions stretching from Australia to Europe, the Miami Herald reported.
Mohammed Ahmad Ammar, 31, is the main player who was living in Medellin, Colombia. He was imprisoned last week into a Miami-Dade jail to face state felony money laundering charges.
Two other Hizbullah associates are facing charges in the same case. One of them is in custody in Paris, while the other is still at large, possibly in Lebanon or Nigeria, added the Miami Herald.
The involvement of radical Islamic terrorist groups in Latin American is not new but has increased in recent years, according to federal law enforcement and security experts, said the daily.
According to a congressional report on border security, Latin America has become a money laundering and major fundraising center for Hizbullah.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced in February an enforcement activity against people with links to Hizbullah, which came after the U.S. Department of Treasury announced sanctions against Hizbullah’s financiers, whom they believe are capable of earning $400 million a year from drug trafficking and money laundering.
Hizbullah-related arrests stemming from Latin American have popped up before in South Florida, said the daily.
In 2008, a Lebanese man named Chekri Harb described by Colombian security officials as having links to Hizbullah was arrested and convicted as part of a large-scale Colombian cocaine ring.
In 2010, three South Florida businessmen were arrested on accusations of of exporting video games and other electronic products to a shopping mall in Paraguay that allegedly served as a front to Hizbullah.
Ammar who is in custody in Miami, was described in court documents as a Hizbullah associate whose job was to launder money for the Colombian cocaine operation known as La Oficina, or The Office, an off-shoot of the notorious Medellin cartel.
He was known to launder money through Holland, Spain, the United Kingdom, Australia and Africa, according to an arrest warrant. Ammar is charged with eight felonies, including money laundering and conspiracy to launder money; court records do not list a defense attorney.
Ghassan Diab, another purported Hizbullah associate based in Nigeria who is still at large, is facing charges. He is related to a “high-ranking member of Hizbullah who has access to numerous international bank account.”
The third accomplice facing charges is Hassan Mohsen Mansour of Hizbullah with dual Lebanese and Canadian citizenship. He is in custody in Paris, and is facing a separate but similar federal money-laundering prosecution in South Florida, said the daily.
Source ; Miami police and Miami herald