The role criminal enterprises like drug trafficking plays in financing Hizballah terror is exhibited in a new indictment announced Tuesday in New York. Four men are accused of plotting to use millions of dollars from heroin sales to buy missiles and automatic weapons for the Lebanese-based Shiite organization.
Four men arrested in Romania and the Maldives have been sent to New York to face drug trafficking charges and conspiring to provide material support to Hizballah.
Siavosh Henareh, Bachar Wehbe, and Cetin Aksu planned to use profits from heroin sales in the United States to buy missiles and automatic weapons for Hizballah, a Drug Enforcement Agency statement said. The deals, set up during meetings in Romania, Cyprus, Malaysia, and elsewhere, would have sent hundreds of kilograms of "high quality" heroin into the United States.
Aksu and Wehbe agreed to use the money generated to buy Stinger missiles, AK-47 rifles and other weapons for Hizballah, a summary of the case in the statement said.
Taza Gul Alizai, described as a Taliban supporter, is charged with conspiracy to engage in narco‑terrorism. He sold roughly five kilograms of heroin to a DEA source in 2008. Two years later, he set up a deal involving six AK-47s and 10 more kilograms of heroin to the source, who claimed to be with the Taliban. The heroin was targeted for sale in the United States and the weapons were for the Taliban.
Last month, Aksu and Wehbe signed a $9.5 million contract to buy 148 Stinger missiles, 5,000 AK‑47s, 1,000 M4 rifles, and 1,000 Glock handguns. During negotiations, Wehbe allegedly said he was acting on directions from Hizballah.
"Today's indictments provide fresh evidence of what many of us have been saying for some time: that there is a growing nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism, a nexus that increasingly poses a clear and present danger to our national security," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in the statement. "Combating this lethal threat requires a bold and proactive approach. And as crime increasingly goes global, and national security threats remain global, the long arm of the law has to get even longer."
The men could face life in prison if convicted.
Hizballah's international criminal operations were the focus of a recent House committee hearing, which focused on activities in the United States and Latin America.