Conspiracy, smuggling and Playstations for Hezbollah

Three men were charged in an indictment unsealed with illegally exporting electronics and video games to a South American shopping center that U.S. officials claim funnels money to Hizbullah. The men, along with a fourth still being sought in South America, are accused of violating a U.S. ban on transactions involving people or entities on a Treasury Department list of suspected terrorist fundraising networks. Hizbullah is considered a terrorist group by the U.S.

The shopping center, Galeria Page in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, was included on the banned list in December 2006 along with owner Mohammed Yosusef Abdallah. Abdallah is described as a senior Hizbullah leader in a region of South America long considered a haven for counterfeiting, smuggling, piracy and other crimes. The suspects arrested in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation were identified in court documents as Khaled Safadi, 56, and 43-year-old Emilio Gonzalez, both of Miami; and 46-year-old Ulises Talavera-Campos, a citizen of Paraguay.

Attorney Michael Tein represents Safadi, whom he said is innocent.

“Terrorism?” Tein said. “More like ‘The Great Sony Playstation Caper.’ The indictment literally charges them with selling Playstation 2 video games to Paraguay. That’s some weapon of mass destruction.”

The men also face charges of conspiracy and smuggling. They face a maximum of 35 years each in prison if convicted. (Naharnet)