A former executive with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is warning America about Hezbollah's transnational trafficking and laundering operation taking place on U.S. soil.
Prior to his retirement in 2014, Derek Maltz was an instrumental part of an investigation known as Project Cassandra. As the head of the DEA's Special Operations Division (SOD), Maltz oversaw the project, which targeted and exposed Hezbollah's transnational operation of trafficking cocaine and laundering money through the sale of used cars.
The former DEA executive explains that his team of investigators came across the very large-scale drug trafficking operation, whereby "loads of cocaine" were being transported from South America to Africa. The drugs were distributed all over the world with funds returning to Africa – and "the monies were then physically carried from Africa to Lebanon," the special agent adds. "Once the monies were in Lebanon, they were going into exchange houses run by Hezbollah."
The money was then routed through a variety of banks. One such bank, the Lebanese Canadian Bank, "routed the monies back into America to the corresponding bank accounts of hundreds of Middle Eastern-owned used car businesses in the country," he notes. Three hundred used car businesses were identified in the investigation.
Maltz explains that vehicles were purchased through auctions and shipped to Africa by Hezbollah-owned shipping companies to be sold for a profit. He tells OneNewsNow that the case he was involved in specifically dealt with foreign aspects of Hezbollah's trade-based money-laundering operations through businesses in America – and then he warns: "They're still operating in America today."
An alarming scheme
Although various sanctions have been imposed on banks and on Hezbollah, the former SOD director laments that "the scheme is still operating with U.S. entities – and that's very alarming." Maltz has spoken before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs about this very issue.
The U.S. Justice Department needs to hold Hezbollah accountable, he argues. Although U.S. law enforcement and other law enforcement agencies around the world know about the scheme, Maltz says the agencies haven't focused on it close enough to really shut it down – and the money is going back overseas to fund terror operations.
"Terrorist organizations need cash to operate, and they recognize that drug trafficking generates something like $400 billion per year around the world," he asserts. "[Drug trafficking] is a great source of revenue to keep their terrorist agenda alive.
"The crime cells of Hezbollah run around the world to establish a variety of criminal activities."
Maltz indicates those criminal activities are not limited to drug trafficking, but also include illegal cigarette trafficking, the sales of drug paraphernalia, kidnapping, extortion, arms smuggling, human trafficking, counterfeit goods, welfare fraud, and more.
"We have what may look like legitimate businesses operating in our country, while in fact they may actually be sending millions of dollars back overseas to support Hezbollah and other terror organizations," he reveals, adding that the amount of money has "gone through the roof [and] it's happening right in our backyard."
Lack of info-sharing is 'recipe for disaster'
The problem, according to Maltz, is that the U.S. government system "is still set up in stove pipes" – meaning the people who are investigating terrorism are not communicating with the people investigating crime.
"It's a recipe for disaster," he continues, "because we all know the terrorists are benefiting from criminal activity. [Consequently, these investigations will be] missing a lot of intelligence which could put the pieces of the puzzle together."
"Synchronization" of effort is required, where agencies exchange data and intel, he explains.
"We have information-sharing problems, while our leaders in government assume everything is working well," he laments. And 19 years after 9/11, "we still don't have a synergy of effort."
When Maltz's team began exposing Hezbollah's cocaine and money-laundering activities, he found the sheer volume of drugs and money involved was alarming.
"As the head of the Special Operations Division, I was very concerned for national security because a lot of this stuff was happening in our backyards," the former special agent says, adding that he remains as equally concerned today.
"Until this message gets out and the right leader drills into it and starts holding people accountable, it's not going to be good for our national security," he acknowledges.
Maltz concludes with this dire warning: "One of my biggest fears is that if Iran, Israel, and the U.S. ever go to battle, there are a lot of people who could turn on America very quickly – and they're already here."