|Beirut, Lebanon. Allegedly, Colombian cocaine money flows thru here.|
|Money launderer? |
Photo: Page Lebanon
Washington recently blacklisted and shut down the Lebanese-Canadian Bank for allegedly hosting accounts used by Hezbollah money launderers. But this Lebanese blogger points out that several of Lebanon's much larger and notoriously secretive banks are also suspected of money laundering.
So, it's likely that the closing of this single bank affects only a sliver of the region's money laundering - and the Times article even reports that many suspicious accounts were simply transferred to other banks.
Decriminalizing drugs would deprive Hezbollah of much of its cocaine income. (But Washington should also recognize that it needs to engage Hezbollah, not demonize it. Hezbollah is a state-within-a-state, with its own army and health services and a big role in Lebanon's government. Hezbollah clearly plays an important role in Lebanese society, and it won't go away anytime soon.)
|Hunting down dirty money.|
Yesterday's New York Times story also reported that Hezbollah is in the African diamond smuggling business. Diamonds are great for smuggling, because they're so small, valuable and difficult to trace. Slip a few dozen diamonds into a toothpaste tube and you've got thousands of dollars hidden in your bathroom kit. Many African diamonds are known as 'blood diamonds' because their sale finances civil wars and insurgencies.
|Certifiied diamonds and emeralds for sale in central Bogota.|
|Paid for by cocaine and diamonds? An African child soldier.|
Decriminalizing drugs would reduce violence in Latin America and in Africa as well.
Some might say there's a contradiction here, since diamonds, a legal product, also finance violence. But only a small proportion of the world's diamonds finance violence, while the great majority of cocaine does.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours