FBI dismantles Hezbollah cell

From The National Post

Alleged Hezbollah cell sold Canadian passport: FBI

Group accused of arms smuggling

Stewart Bell, National Post Published: Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Members of Hezbollah's militia. The Lebanese party is seen as a key terrorist group. Ramzi Haidar/AFP/Getty Images Members of Hezbollah’s militia. The Lebanese party is seen as a key terrorist group.

TORONTO — The FBI has dismantled an alleged Hezbollah cell accused of dealing, depositing counterfeit money in a Canadian bank and selling a Canadian passport to support the Lebanese terrorist group.

Ten people from New York, New Jersey, Lebanon and Venezuela have been indicted and face up to 30 years in prison following an investigation that began in 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Tuesday.

The indictments link Hezbollah to a wide array of crimes, ranging from counterfeiting U.S. currency and money laundering to fencing stolen cars, cellular phones, laptops and Sony PlayStation 2 systems.

The case also implicates Iran and Syria in Hezbollah’s illicit arms network. The suspects allegedly tried to ship guns to Latakia, a Syrian port they said was controlled by Hezbollah. And Hezbollah officials in Iran were allegedly involved in the weapons purchase.

During the investigation, one of the suspected ringleaders told an undercover agent that “Hezbollah receives a great deal of money from Iran” and “maintains small cells throughout the world.” He cited the bombing of a Jewish centre in Argentina as an example.

“The allegations contained in this complaint demonstrate how terrorist organizations rely on a variety of underlying activities to fund and arm themselves,” said David Kriss, the Assistant U.S. Attorney.

The group allegedly attempted to ship 1,200 Colt M-4 machine guns through Syria to Hezbollah. To raise money, it sold passports for $10,000, including a genuine Canadian passport into which a false page had been inserted.

A suspected ringleader of the group, Dib Hani Harb, is the son-in-law of Hassan Hodroj, a member of the Hezbollah Political Council. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah attended Mr. Harb’s wedding.

Mr. Harb allegedly showed counterfeit U.S. currency to a witness, and said it had been manufactured in Iran. He said he had deposited $10,000 worth of the phony bills into a Canadian bank account.

Hezbollah is a militant Islamist group that is backed, trained and financed by Iran. It is a banned terrorist group under Canadian law. The Canadian government’s official profile of Hezbollah accuses it of car bombings, hijackings and kidnappings in Western Europe, South America and Israel.

In a speech last month, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott warned that Hezbollah violence could spread to Canada. “While Hezbollah has not articulated any specific grievance with Canada, from its perspective any state that supports Israel or Israeli interests is the enemy, which casts a wide net,” he said.

Charged are: Mr. Harb, Mr. Hodroj, Hasan Antar Karaki, Moussa Ali Hamdan, Hassan El-Najjar, Moustafa Habib Kassem, Latif Kamel Hazime, Alaa Allia Ahmed Mohamed, Maodo Kane and Michael Katz.

National Post

sbell@nationalpost.com

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