Two men arrested in Romania on charges they conspired to provide various forms of support to Hizballah have been extradited to New York to face the charges, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office announced Thursday.
Siavosh Henareh of Iran and Cetin Aksu from Turkey were arrested in Bucharest in July as part of a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) narco-terrorism sting operation. A third person, Bachar Wehbe, was detained in the Maldives following an international red alert issued by Interpol.
According to the indictment, Henareh held a series of meetings with confidential DEA sources in several countries, including Turkey, Romania, and Greece, where he agreed to import hundreds of kilograms of high-quality heroin into the United States. Henareh allegedly knew the profits from would be used to buy weapons for Hizballah, the indictment said.
The confidential sources later met with two of Henareh's associates, Aksu and Wehbe. During meetings held in Romania, Cyprus, Malaysia, and elsewhere, Aksu and Wehbe agreed to buy $9.5 million worth of Stinger missiles, AK-47 assault rifles, and other weapons. The defendants made a $100,000 down payment for the weapons purchase that included a $50,000 wire transfer to an undercover bank account. Wehbe told the DEA informants that he was purchasing the weapons under instruction from Hizballah.
The defendants face life in prison if convicted on the charges.
"[T]his case provides fresh evidence of the growing nexus between drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and terrorists, a nexus with the potential to threaten our national security," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
A DEA sting during the summer interdicted an Iranian plot to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington. In that case, an Iranian-American helped arrange a $100,000 down payment for the attack from Iranian officials to what he thought was a representative of a Mexican drug cartel.