Israeli researchers: Hezbollah launders millions by overseeing the European drug trade

A new study by Israeli researchers claims Hezbollah finances its terror operations and sidesteps US sanctions by overseeing the illicit drug trade from South America to Europe. From the Times of Israel:

“These Hezbollah operatives are actually overseeing all the illicit finance and the drug trafficking activities, not just in Europe, but in South America, the Tri-Border region, moving about $200 million a month,” said former US Drug Enforcement Administration special agent Derek Maltz.

The study said Hezbollah personnel act as middlemen in the global drug route from South America to West Africa and from there to Europe, helping get hundreds of tons of cocaine and other drugs through ports in Belgium and Germany — with only 5-10 percent of it being intercepted.

“Our study links Hezbollah’s political wing with its military wing, and we went down to the field level and are showing how all the drug trafficking system supports money laundering,” Cohen said. “At least 20%-25% of the [profit] goes back to Hezbollah and is used for arming, weapon purchases, salaries and more.”

As it happens, we know one of the things Hezbollah militants were apparently spending some of that drug money on: Ice packs. Sunday the Telegraph reported that Hezbollah was caught stockpiling bomb-making materials, in the form of ice packs, in north London. This was apparently part of a larger plot to carry out terror attacks around the globe:

Radicals linked to Hizbollah, the Lebanese militant group, stashed hoards of disposable ice packs containing ammonium nitrate, an ingredient commonly used to make home made bombs.

The plot was uncovered by MI5 and the Metropolitan Police in 2015 but the public and MPs were kept in the dark, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Three tonnes of the dangerous substance was found in its raw form and police eventually arrested one man on suspicion of plotting terrorism – but released him without charge…

Sources told the paper that the pattern of behavior from those linked to the group suggested a wider operation, after a similar find was made in Thailand and a New York-based member appeared to seek out a foreign ice pack manufacturer.

CNSNews reports a British MP has sent a letter asking why the discovery of such a large amount of bomb-making materials was kept from the public in 2015 and whether that had something to do with keeping the Iran Deal on track:

Joan Ryan, an independent member of the House of Commons, asked Home Secretary Sajid Javid in a letter Monday why details of the September 2015 raid had not been made public.

“Can you confirm that nobody in Government ordered this information to be withheld from the public because of its sensitivity due to Iran’s funding and support for Hezbollah and the recent conclusion of the Iran nuclear deal?” she asked.

Ryan, who for years campaigned for Britain to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group – in its entirety, rather than just its purported “military wing” – also wanted to know why the government resisted that move until early this year, even though it was aware in 2015 of its apparent terrorist plotting in the U.K.

It definitely seems odd that such a major terror-connected discovery would be kept quiet just months after the Iran Deal was wrapped up and months before the prisoner (and cash) swap in January 2016.

Update: Here’s a Ted Talk on how those instant ice packs work. There are only two ingredients inside them: water and ammonium nitrate.