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Sunday, July 31, 2011

US DEA busts Hezbollah weapons smuggling ring

From Now Lebanon:
It was just an undercover operation meant to lead to the arrest of an Iranian drug dealer in Bucharest, Romania. But it developed into one of the largest operations the American Drug Enforcement Agency initiated in the last decade. It ended with the arrest of a Lebanese weapons dealer who claimed he was buying weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, worth $9.5 million for Hezbollah.

The American Drug Enforcement Agency announced last Tuesday that it had arrested Lebanese citizen Bashar Wehbeh in the Republic of Maldives for trying to purchase weapons from two undercover agents who were posing as dealers. As a result of the same operation, Cetin Aksu and Siavosh Henareh, Turkish and Iranian citizens, respectively, were arrested in Romania.

An international network of security institutions from Interpol to the Maldivian, Romanian Turkish, Greek and Malaysian police kept the suspects under surveillance, recorded conversations, intercepted phone calls and e-mails, and, on Monday, arrested the suspects.

...The agents recorded phone calls and conversations, filmed the meetings and kept e-mails in which they negotiated selling to [Hezbollah's] Wehbeh 48 American-made Stinger SAMs, 100 Igla SAMs, 5,000 AK 47 assault rifles, 1,000 M4 rifles and 1,000 Glock handguns for a total price of approximately $9.5 million.

Aksu and Wehbeh signed a written contract in June 2011 in Malaysia.

“During a meeting on June 12, 2011, Wehbeh stated that he was purchasing the weapons on instructions from Hezbollah,” the indictment reads. “On June 28, 2011, in Beirut, Lebanon, Wehbeh and co-conspirators not named as defendants herein caused approximately $50,000 as a down payment for the weapons purchase… to be sent to the [DEA agents].”
The case also shows links between Hezbollah weapons dealers and the drug trade.

The full indictment is here.