Pubdate: Mon, 02 Sep 2002
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2002 The Decatur Daily
Author: John Solomon, Associated Press Writer
Bookmark: (Terrorism)


Evidence Shows Money Coming From U.S. Traffickers

WASHINGTON - Federal authorities have amassed evidence for the first time 
that an illegal drug operation in the United States was funneling proceeds 
to Middle East terrorist groups like Hezbollah.

Evidence gathered by the Drug Enforcement Administration since a series of 
raids in January indicates that a methamphetamine drug operation in the 
Midwest involving men of Middle Eastern descent has been shipping money 
back to terrorist groups, officials said.

"There is increasing intelligence information from the investigation that 
for the first time alleged drug sales in the United States are going in 
part to support terrorist organizations in the Middle East," DEA 
administrator Asa Hutchinson said.

DEA officials said the men, most of whom were indicted on drug charges 
after their January arrests, were smuggling large quantities of the 
chemical pseudoephedrine from Canada into the Midwest.

Officials said the smuggling went through two primary Midwest locations, 
Chicago and Detroit, and involved several men with ties to Jordan, Yemen, 
Lebanon and other Middle East countries. There is no evidence that any of 
the money was connected to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, officials said.

Pseudoephedrine is used in some popular cold and allergy medications. It is 
an essential ingredient in the creation of methamphetamine, a powerful and 
increasingly popular drug known on the streets as "ice," "poor man's 
cocaine" or "crystal meth."

Users generally inject or smoke meth. The powdery substance is produced by 
heating about a dozen chemicals.

The U.S. drug ring was reselling pseudoephedrine to Mexican-based drug 
operations in the Western United States that used the pseudoephedrine to 
produce methamphetamine, authorities said.

The Middle Eastern men then were diverting some of the proceeds from the 
pseudoephedrine sales back to the Middle East to accounts authorities have 
begun to connect to terrorist groups, DEA officials said. Some of the 
connections involved the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah, and some of 
the money has been traced to accounts in Lebanon and Yemen, officials said.

DEA officials said U.S. authorities don't know yet how much money was 
funneled from the drug sales to the terrorist groups, but said the 
pseudoephedrine sales alone amounted to millions of dollars.

"A significant portion of some of the sales are sent to the Middle East to 
benefit terrorist organizations," Hutchinson said.

The drug ring was broken up Jan. 10 as part of a massive DEA investigation 
called Operation Mountain Express, which has smashed several major 
methamphetamine operations in the last two years. Arrests were made in 
Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Phoenix and several California cities.

The raids have resulted in criminal charges against 136 people and the 
seizure of nearly 36 tons of pseudoephedrine, 179 pounds of 
methamphetamine, $4.5 million in cash, eight real estate properties, and 
160 cars used by the drug gangs.

Hutchinson has been warning for months that illegal drug money provides a 
compelling opportunity for terror groups to siphon support from the United 
States, but the DEA investigation provided the first evidence of a direct 
flow of money.

The evidence of the terror ties emerged after the arrests. U.S. authorities 
said it is possible some defendants charged with drug violations could face 
additional charges.

The Bush administration has been stepping up efforts to stem the flow of 
money and items from sympathizers in the United States to foreign terror 
groups under a law that prohibits providing "material support and 
resources" to known terrorist organizations.

Six men who lived in the United States were indicted last week on charges 
they conspired to provide such support to al-Qaida or related terrorist causes.

Federal agents believe they have uncovered a broad effort by American 
residents, many of them legal immigrants or visitors, to use credit card 
thefts, illegal cigarette sales, diverted charitable funds and cash 
smuggled in airline luggage to enrich anti-American and anti-Israeli terror 
groups, officials said.
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