Feds: Hezbollah Link To Mexico's Zetas Drug Cartel

December 14, 2011

Photo courtesy Drug Enforcement Administration.
Ayman Joumaa

TUCSON, Ariz. -- A federal judge has unsealed a case against a money launderer accused of working with the Zetas drug cartel in Mexico and with Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group labeled a terror organization by the United States.

Court papers unsealed this week in Virginia show the defendant, Ayman Joumaa, is accused of laundering cash for the Colombian cartels from cocaine trafficked by the Zetas. Joumaa would allegedly charge 8 to 14 percent of the value of the shipments to launder the cash.

According to a Notice of Finding filed last February, the Treasury Department was targeting the Lebanese Canadian Bank. Joumaa, the department alleged then, was pushing $200 million a month in cocaine onto the market. Joumaa would deposit the money into money exchange houses that would then deposit the cash into the LBC.

In some cases, prosecutors say Joumaa's financial network would use the deposited money to buy used cars in the U.S. to ship overseas, then dump the proceeds from the cars into the Lebanese bank.

In other cases, prosecutors say Joumaa's network would use the cocaine proceeds to buy Asian consumer goods and resell them in Latin America, again, using the sales to launder the money into legitimate accounts.

The indictment doesn’t link Joumaa to Hezbollah specifically. In fact, it doesn't even mention Hezbollah.

But in February, the Department of the Treasury fingered the Lebanese Canadian Bank as a money launderer for Hezbollah.

In that paperwork, the Americans stated that Hezbollah was profiting from Joumaa’s money laundering syndicate.

It’s one of the first times U.S. prosecutors have made a connection between the terror group and Mexican cartels. Last October, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) foiled an attempt on the life of a Saudi ambassador by Iranian agents who tried to hire the Zetas as assassins.