Hezbollah comes to the US

We recently noted the search of a used car dealership in Tulsa as the result of a lawsuit alleging that it received about $20.2 million from Hezbollah members or Hezbollah-controlled entities to purchase and ship used cars. Now Glenn Reynolds notes that a Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, car dealership has been shut down on suspicion of ties to Hezbollah in the same scheme. The scheme involves a nationwide network of auto dealers who received money from an international money laundering concern with ties to drug traffickers, some of whom are supporters of Hezbollah.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism has just posted a timely story on the larger picture of which these actions form a part. Here is the component involving auto dealerships in the United States:

A Treasury designation, a criminal indictment and a civil lawsuit allege the Lebanese drug dealer Ayman Joumaa is part of a complex cocaine and automobile smuggling enterprise in the United States and West Africa that handles hundreds of millions of dollars each month. Some of those profits are routed to Hizballah through the Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB).

More than $300 million was wired into the United States through Lebanese financial institutions, according to the civil suit. The money laundering scheme allegedly involves at least 30 car dealerships throughout the country. As part of the investigation, federal agents raided a dealership in Tulsa.

“They’re making big time money and it’s going right into weapons acquisition, terrorist training, recruiting, corruption,” DEA official Rusty Payne told Fox News. “Things needed to carry out terrorist attacks around the world. Some of the money is flowing back to the United States, back to these used car companies, to purchase more used cars to ship them to West Africa to sell those at a profit and then mix those used car proceeds in with the drug dollars.”

The growing nexus between Hizballah and Mexican drug cartels allows the Iran-backed extremist group to make use of drug cartel transit routes to gain entry into the United States through its porous border with Mexico. Hizballah, in turn, offers Mexican syndicates expertise on smuggling and explosives as well as access to its drug trafficking networks in the Middle East and South Asia.

Iran-backed Hizballah and Mexican drug syndicates share “the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation experts,” former DEA operations chief Michael Braun told the Washington Times. “They rely on the same shadow facilitators. One way or another they’re all connected.”

Braun also alleged that members of Iran’s Quds Force are “commanding and controlling” Hizballah’s criminal operations in Latin America.

The IPT story is full of links including the complaint in the lawsuit filed in federal district court in New York. The whole thing sounds like a wild conspiracy theory hatched in the fevered imagination of a novelist practicing the paranoid thriller. In this case, however, it appears that reality has surpassed fiction.

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