Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Arabs love Ben Franklin - they can't stop printing his picture

I blogged last month about my theory that some of the $20 million that Zahar's "fundraising tour" raised may have in fact been counterfeit US currency. I had no evidence besides the fact that pristine $100 bills are not found in large quantities in the countries he visited.

Now, NBC news accidentally seems to have found another source for mint-condition US currency in the Middle East: (video from LGF, story from OpinionJournal):

(Video player requires Flash Player 8.)

As James Taranto notes:
A reader noticed something curious in a video from last night’s “NBC Nightly News.” Richard Engel, the network’s Beirut bureau chief, is reporting from southern Lebanon, and at 1:07 in the video, as he’s saying, “In Sidon, we found part of the financial district flattened,” you briefly see an image of what look like uncut sheets of U.S. hundred-dollar bills.

Now, it’s possible to buy uncut sheets from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, at premiums ranging from 12.5% to 275% over face value—but apparently only in denominations of up to $50. Anyhow, somehow we doubt these were collectibles.

A Treasury Department press release dated June 10, 2004, reports that Hezbollah has been involved in counterfeiting American money:

One of the most prominent and influential members of the Hizballah terrorist organization, along with two of his companies, was designated by the Treasury Department today under Executive Order 13224. Assad Ahmad Barakat has close ties with Hizballah leadership and has worked closely with numerous Islamic extremists and suspected Hizballah associates in South America’s tri-border area (TBA), made up of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. . . .

Barakat has also been involved in a counterfeiting ring that distributes fake U.S. dollars and generates cash to fund Hizballah operations. As of early 2001, Barakat was one of two individuals reportedly in charge of distribution and sale of the counterfeit currency in the TBA.

Was this funny money in Engel’s report from Sidon? We don’t know, but it’d be a good question for him to investigate.
It is a fair bet that much of the cash that made it to Gaza also originated in the "Sidon financial district."

UPDATE: An LGF reader pointed out that these look more like photocopies for the serial numbers rather than counterfeit currency.