Three men alleged to have links to Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah have been accused of using Miami banks to launder money for Colombian cartels, according to court documents seen by the Miami Herald.
Mohammad Ahmad Ammar, 31, a resident of Medellin, Colombia, who was arrested in Los Angeles in September, is believed to be the main figure in the scheme and is currently in a Miami-Dade jailfacing state felony money-laundering charges.
Ammar’s father is a well-connected Hezbollah associate, according to court documents.
Hassan Mohsen Mansour, a dual Lebanese and Canadian citizen, is also believed to be a Hezbollah associate and is currently in custody in Paris, facing a different money-laundering case in southern Florida.
The third man charged is Ghassan Diab, purported to be a “high-ranking member of Hezbollah who has access to numerous international bank accounts.” Diab, who has not be apprehended, was based in Nigeria, and he is thought to currently be in that country or in Lebanon.
According to an arrest warrant seen by the Miami Herald, Ammar was contacted by a confidential informant working for the US Drug Enforcement Administration in early 2014. He was asked to help launder $250,000 in Australian dollars from cocaine sales and move it to Miami banks, where it would be available to Colombian traffickers.
Ammar, allegedly with the help of Mansour, moved the money to an account in Dubai’s opaque banking system, after which the money disappeared. Later, bank accounts in Miami set up by the DEA as part of the sting operation began to see deposits trickle in from vague sources, usually accompanied by fake invoices.
After that laundering operation, another deal to launder $250,000 was made, with the same process of transferring and disguising the funds playing out.
According to the Herald, Ammar boasted of his criminal connects throughout the operation, telling investigators that he knew people who worked for an airline and could smuggle cocaine to Miami and that his family had strong ties to Hezbollah.
“These drug trafficking and money laundering schemes… provide a revenue and weapons stream for an international terrorist organization responsible for devastating terror attacks around the word,” DEA Acting Deputy Administrator Jack Riley said in a statement earlier this year, when the DEA announced a “significant enforcement activity against Hezbollah’s financing operations.”
Latin America’s criminal nexus
Ammar also admitted to a DEA informant that he worked with a high-powered Medellin-based trafficking organization called La Oficina de Envigado. The case against Ammar is not the first report of Hezbollah involvement in Latin American criminal networks, but it does fit with the general pattern of the terrorist group’s purported activities in the region.
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