To finance its activities, Hizballah conducts lucrative cocaine and money-laundering operations in Latin America, based primarily in the area known as the Triple Frontier, where the borders of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina meet. Lebanon, where the Iran-backed terrorist group is headquartered, has consistently provided shelter to these activities, as Emanuele Ottolenghi explains:
U.S. policy toward the Lebanese militant group continues to be incoherent. By flexing its muscles against Hizballah while supporting Lebanese state institutions that it has heavily penetrated or fully controls, the White House ends up undermining its own pursuit of the group’s illicit sources of finance.
This contradiction at the heart of American policy is now playing out in Paraguay, where the Lebanese embassy is attempting to block the extradition [to the U.S.] of the alleged Hizballah financier Nader Mohamad Farhat. . . . On May 17, while the U.S. Treasury was announcing new Hizballah designations, Paraguayan authorities raided . . . a currency-exchange house in Ciudad del Este . . . and arrested Farhat, its owner, for his role in an alleged $1.3 million drug-money-laundering scheme. Farhat is alleged to be a member of . . . the branch of Hizballah’s External Security Organization in charge of running overseas illicit-finance and-drug trafficking operations. . . .
On May 28, the Lebanese chargé d’affaires in Asunción, Hassan Hijazi, sent a letter to Paraguay’s attorney general intimating that she should reject the U.S. request to extradite Farhat. Hijazi is clearly entitled to look after the interests of a Lebanese national. He could do so by offering consular services to the detainee while publicly distancing his country from this type of financial crime. . . . Interfering in the legal process of his host country, however, is an infringement of diplomatic protocol and a sure sign that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beirut is prioritizing Hizballah’s interests over those of Lebanon.
Washington should not let this slip quietly, and neither should Paraguay. Asunción should declare Hijazi to be persona non grata and unceremoniously dispatch him back to Lebanon. . . . The United States should give reassurances to Paraguay that punishing the envoy and extraditing the culprit is the right course of action. Farhat’s money laundering scheme is the tip of Hizballah’s criminal iceberg in the Triple Frontier. . . . Washington, [moreover], needs to recognize that Lebanese institutions are not a counterweight to Hizballah, but its enablers.