Hezbollah part of money-laundering ring: Australian Police

Probe uncovers that Australians were unknowingly aiding laundering of hundreds of millions of dollars abroad.

Sydney, Australia.
Sydney, Australia. Photo: REUTERS

Australian police revealed on Thursday they had cracked a major global money-laundering ring with operatives in more than 20 countries and funds syphoned off to groups reported to include Hezbollah. The Daily Star : Lebanon News

I wonder why this doesn’t come as a surprise,  given the spate of crime by motor bike gangs, ‘Brothers for Life’, which include drive-by and targeting shootings in Sydney?

Australia’s largest money-laundering investigation reveals that Hezbollah and other terrorist groups are gaining some of the profits from illegal drug sales.

The investigation, called Project Eligo, uncovered that Australians were unknowingly aiding the laundering of hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a report on Thursday in the Sydney Morning Herald.

“It was just never-ending…We were regularly finding bags of $500,000 and $400,000,” said Australian Crime Commission’s acting operations manager Col Blanch.

So far authorities have seized $26 million in cash, $30m. in assets, and over $530m. in drugs.

Jerusalem Post

Australia’s largest money-laundering investigation reveals that Hezbollah and other terrorist groups are gaining some of the profits from illegal drug sales.

Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense ofDemocracies and former terrorism finance analyst at the US Department of the Treasury, told The Jerusalem Post that “there are many other operations like this around the world. Some have been discovered – including a handful two years ago in Latin America and West Africa that even had a link to businesses in the United States – but many have not.”

“These schemes have been of increased importance to the group in recent years as Iran’s disposable income has dried up, due to financial sanctions imposed in response to the Iranian nuclear program,” Schanzer said.

He went on to add that

“the nexus between organized crime and drugs represents a real liability,” as it is “difficult to claim one is fighting in the name of God while simultaneously engaging in mafia activity.”

Matthew Levitt, author of Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God and a senior fellow and director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Stein Program on Counter- terrorism and Intelligence, writes that the Shi’ite group is able to tap into the Lebanese diaspora for financial and logistical support.

For example, its operations in Africa “operate with near impunity because crime and corruption are endemic to Africa,” he says.

“In several African countries, a 2010 US Federal Research Division survey found, Lebanese with suspected or known ties to Hezbollah were associating themselves with key military and government officials and even heads of state, to become financial advisers and confidants,” said Levitt.

According to the Lebanon Star

According to the ACC, the operation disrupted 18 serious organized crime groups and singled out 128 individuals of interest in over 20 countries, tapping information from agencies including the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

The full details of which countries had been involved were not revealed, but acting ACC chief Paul Jevtovic said, “The reality is that the Middle East and Southeast Asia have featured prominently.”

Eligo saw 105 people arrested on 190 separate charges and resulted in the closure of three major clandestine methamphetamine labs and Australia’s largest-ever urban hydroponic cannabis hothouse in Sydney.

It was described as “one of the most successful money-laundering investigations in Australian law enforcement history” by the ACC.

Legitimate international cash wiring services were a major focus of the operation, with the government’s anti-laundering agency AUSTRAC saying they had been identified as at “high risk of being exploited by serious and organized crime groups.”

According to a Fairfax media expose on the operation, criminals targeted foreign nationals and students in Australia awaiting remittances from overseas, hijacking the transaction by depositing dirty money to the payee and then taking the cash wired from offshore.

SBS said Fairfax said at least one of the exchange houses used in the Middle East and Asia delivered a cut from every dollar it laundered to Lebanon’s powerful Shiite movement and Syria ally Hezbollah, which is banned as a terrorist organisation in Australia.

“It was just never-ending,” said ACC acting chief Col Blanch. “We were regularly finding bags of $500,000 and $400,000.”

Drug money

Organised crime is estimated to cost Australia Aus$10-15 billion per year by the ACC, with drugs, money-laundering, fraud, firearms and high-tech cyber offences the major issues.

Profits from transnational organised crime were estimated at US$870 billion in 2009 — the latest available data — according to the ACC’s 2013 report into the sector. That represented about 1.5 percent of global GDP at the time.

The ACC is also monitoring the use of Bitcoin, a so-called virtual cryptocurrency generated by a complex computer algorithm.

Bitcoin made headlines last year when U.S. authorities closed the Silk Road website after the currency was found being used to buy illegal drugs, forged documents, hacker tools and even the services of hit men.

There is quite a substantial list of Lebanese drug related crimes of late in Sydney’s West.

An ABC investigation has uncovered evidence that Australia’s highest-security prisoner is continuing to exert power over a brutal gang which is waging a campaign of terror in suburban Sydney.

Convicted murderer Bassam Hamzy has spent almost his entire adult life in jail and has been segregated in the Goulburn Supermax high-security prison for almost the past five years.

But he retains remarkable connections in Sydney’s underworld.

Hamzy and some of his relatives are believed to be the leaders of the  gang, which has been terrorising the Lebanese Sunni Muslim community in south-western Sydney with a spate of extortions, murders, shootings and knee-cappings.

He somehow has been carrying on his illegal activities from with gaol, including atteempted murder.

The 34-year-old gained notoriety in 2008 when he was caught using a smuggled mobile phone to run a violent drug network from his maximum-security cell at Lithgow Jail.

Even though the police tightened security , the ABC has learned he has been able to continue his activities, gaining access to several mobile phones.

Late last year, he was discovered making calls while on transfer in Sydney’s Silverwater Jail.

Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin says Hamzy barricaded his cell with court documents and flushed the mobile phone down a toilet before guards forced their way inside.

“He has been doing that, as I understand, to continue to engage in illicit behaviour outside prison,” Mr Severin said.

“That is a very serious matter and certainly one that we are extremely concerned about.”

The details of Hamzy’s case were revealed on Wednesday after the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal lifted a suppression order on his sentence for his 2008 dial-a-crime activity.

Hamzy had been sentenced in the District Court in May to at least another 15-and-a-half years in jail for his crime spree, which was recorded on telephone intercepts.

Police had listened in as Hamzy and relatives trafficked $250,000 worth of drugs from Sydney to Melbourne every week.

TIME World Tells of crime running wild in Sydney’s South West

The Police have set up a facebook page called Western Sydney Crime no doubt to try to combat illicit drugs and crime.

It seems the drug trade is taking its toll in the suburbs.

 

 

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