Worldwide drug trafficking ring 'links Hezbollah to Latin American cartels'

Members of Hezbollah's European arm have been arrested by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), on suspicion of using millions of dollars from cocaine sales to buy weapons in Syria

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The Independent Online

A worldwide drug trafficking ring worth millions of dollars linking Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, with Latin American cartels has been uncovered by the American authorities, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has said.

Members of the militant group have been arrested by the DEA on suspicion of using money from the sale of cocaine in the United States and Europe to buy weapons in Syria, according to a statement released by the agency.

Those arrested include leaders of the network's European cell, who were taken into custody last week, the statement said. Among them was Mohamad Noureddine, who the DEA accuses of being a Lebanese money launderer for Hezbollah's financial arm. The US has labelled Noureddine a specially designated global terrorist, it said.

The United States designates Hezbollah – which has been sending troops and arms to support President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war – a terrorist organisation.

The DEA did not give the total number of those arrested or say where they were apprehended.

The investigation "once again highlights the dangerous global nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism," the statement said.

Seven countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Belgium, were involved in the continuing investigation into Hezbollah’s international activities, dubbed Project Cassandra, that began in February 2015.

The statement added: "Members of the Hezbollah [business arm] have established business relationships with South American drug cartels, such as La Oficina de Envigado, responsible for supplying large quantities of cocaine to the European and United States drug markets."

Additional reporting by Reuters