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Chrsitian Science Monitor, December 16, 2011

Lebanonwire

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Hezbollah, terrorist financing, and Venezuela: Don't panic

Ayman Joumaa was indicted in Virginia this week for laundering Hezbollah money and helping smuggle drugs out of Latin America. Blogger James Bosworth argues this is not a reason to worry.

By James Bosworth, Guest blogger

The New York Times and ProPublica have details on the indictment of Ayman Joumaa, a Lebanese citizen who has laundered millions of dollars for Hezbollah while assisting with cocaine-trafficking routes out of Colombia and Venezuela. It appears his focus was routes through Europe, but he has also moved drugs through Mexico in coordination with the Zetas.

It's important to take down the hemisphere's Hezbollah money laundering networks because they do finance terrorism in the Middle East and violent criminal organizations like the Zetas in this hemisphere. However, in some ways, it's just one more criminal network to take down. As one official told ProPublica, "It’s not like there’s a sit-down between the leaders of Hezbollah and the Zetas." Nor is this about Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran plotting together. It should not be portrayed as such.

Hezbollah has been laundering drug money in the hemisphere for well over a decade, which is an intelligence and law enforcement issue. The US and other governments have used civilian investigators to track down the money routes and build a case to indict top personnel and seize funds. The US Congress, which has often expressed concern over Hezbollah's activities, should see this indictment as a sign of success by the US government and an argument to fully fund and support US civilian law enforcement efforts by DEA, ATF, Treasury, and others to track and halt money laundering and other criminal activity in this hemisphere.

--- James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant who runs Bloggings by Boz.

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