Hezbollah links with Brazil’s criminal underbelly exposed, new weapons deals in pipeline

by Martin Jay

10 November 2014 | 13:40

  • by Martin Jay
  • Last update: 10 November 2014 | 13:40

BEIRUT: The Brazilian federal Police are investigating against Hezbollah for trading weapons, human trafficking and illegal deals with the local mafia, according to reports in the Brazilian press.

As the Rio de Janeiro-based paper "O Globo" reports, an eight year old suspicion has now become substantiated as new investigations have shown deeper connections between Hezbollah and the Brazilian mafia.

According to documents presented by the Brazilian authorities, "foreign criminals" have opened new paths for providing Brazilian criminal groups with weapons. One of these local groups is the outfit "First Command of the Capital" (PCC), the largest criminal organization of Brazil that controls the inside life of many prisons mainly in the capital São Paulo.

Indeed, there have been indications since 2008, that there were connections between drug trafficking and the financing of terrorist organizations.

The system is a simple 'give and take': Hezbollah members, it is claimed, help the PCC with their international contacts. For doing so, they are being treated like 1st class prisoners in Brazilian prisons.

According to new intelligence reports, the Lebanese group has now opened new paths for the lucrative weapons trafficking. How these channels look like has not been established in concrete terms yet, however.

It is an open secret that the triple border region of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay has become a preferred 'refuge' of Diaspora members of Hezbollah. Reportedly, there is, for example, a senior Hezbollah leader who owns a huge shopping mall in Paraguay's Ciudad Del Este. He is said to pay an amount of his income directly to Hezbollah and to be involved in several other criminal businesses.

Lebanese political science professor Ahmed Moussalli speaks cautiously when it comes to these links between Lebanon and Brazil. "I don't think they need Hezbollah there. There are so many weapons around in Southern America – why should one find a big business there?" Moussalli says. However, he does not exclude the possibility that Hezbollah is a player overseas. "I know that they have recently arrested a guy, who was member of the Hezbollah. It is likely that the group is playing a role there", the AUB professor tells An Nahar in a telephone interview.

The Lebanese government has been trying to strengthen its ties with Brazil the emerging nation being a potential trading partner. Lebanon's exports to Brazil amount to two million USD, while the lump sum of the exports of other Arab countries amounts to 360 billion USD. When foreign minister Gibran Bassil visited Brazil last summer, he stated that there were more than twice the Lebanese population living there than in their homeland. "Lebanon ranks 11 among the exporting Arab countries to Brazil, while it should be number one", Bassil said.

The United States began focusing on the potential terrorist financing issue in the tri-border region after 9-11. The U.S. has demanded action from Brazil and Paraguay to halt the action of what it says are terrorist. The effect was little. Three years ago, republican nominee for President of the U.S., Mitt Romney, stated that the activities of Hezbollah in Latin America were a threat to national security that didn't get enough attention.

A 2013 report on the activities of Iran and the Hezbollah in Latin America stated that there have been Iranian intelligence activities for almost 30 years. As CNN reported, Iran has set up structures in the triple border region with Hezbollah being one of the key partners.

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