(June 13, 2019 / JNS) The United States and Argentina held a workshop in Buenos Aires this week on countering Hezbollah’s activities in the Western Hemisphere.
In attendance were law-enforcement officials, prosecutors and financial practitioners from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Paraguay and Peru, in addition to representatives from Ameripol, a collective of law-enforcement agencies in Latin America that share information with one another.
The workshop focused on the terrorist group’s operations worldwide, including its terrorist and criminal infrastructure, as well as other activities in the Americas. “Participants discussed various techniques to constrain and counter the group’s illicit activities, including the financial and law-enforcement tools available to identify, investigate and prosecute [Hezbollah’s] global support and facilitation networks,” according to a readout from the U.S. State Department.
“Without that cooperation, it is harder to disrupt Hezbollah money-laundering and drug-trafficking networks in the region,” Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JNS. “Ultimately, it is the weight of U.S. sanctions and U.S. law-enforcement actions that creates the momentum for effective disruption. We need to see more of that.”
The event occurred in advance of next week’s commemoration of the Hezbollah attack on the Mutual Israelite Association of Argentina, or AMIA, community center in Buenos Aires 25 years ago. Iran, which Hezbollah is a proxy of, is believed to have been behind the tragedy.
A Politico bombshell in December 2017 exposed the network of money-laundering and other crimes done by Hezbollah, including operations in Venezuela, for which the Obama administration let pass in order to reach the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
In April, the United States sanctioned a Lebanese currency exchange and its owner for processing transactions for Hezbollah and for money-laundering on behalf of Colombian drug cartels.
In October, the U.S. Department of Justice designated Hezbollah as a transnational crime group, officially making the Lebanese terrorist group the highest priority of law enforcement.
In January 2018, the DOJ established the Hezbollah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team, which consists of prosecutors who have fought against terrorism, organized crime, money-laundering and international narcotics trafficking.