BREAK-UP OF LEBANESE DRUG RING IN BRAZIL

Código Fecha Clasificación Origen
05SAOPAULO872 22 July 2005 Secreto Consulate Sao Paulo

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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 SAO PAULO 000872

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/BSC, DS, DS/DSS. DS/DSS/IP,DS/IP/WHA,
DH/IP/NEA, DS/IP/ITA, DS/CR/CIL, DS/IP/IPO, WHA/PD, INL
NSC FOR SUE CRONIN AND ZARATE
TREASURY FOR OFAC

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/21/2015
TAGS: SNAR, PTER, ASEC, PGOV, ETTC, EFIN, SOCI, BR, Domestic Security & Crime
SUBJECT: BREAK-UP OF LEBANESE DRUG RING IN BRAZIL

REF: SAO PAULO 683

Classified By: A/CG DAVID WOLFE FOR REASONS 1.4(D)

1. (S) SUMMARY: On June 17, 2005, the Brazilian Federal
Police (DPF) broke up a Lebanese-organized drug ring based in
Sao Paulo and operating in a number of cites in southern
Brazil. 8Operation Tamara,8 (thedate fruit in
Portuguese,) involved coordinationwith the German federal
police and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration,s (DEA)
Regional Office atConsulate General Sao Paulo (SPRO). Press
repors on the operation specifically mentioned DEA,s
nvolvement in the operation, although no direct inolvement
of DEA personnel from Consulate Sao Paulo has yet been made
in the press. The press also reported that DPF stated that
the drugs seized, some 65 kilos of cocaine worth USD 400,000,
came from Paraguay and Bolivia and were destined for Europe
and the Middle East. Press reports indicated that in
addition to the drug seizures, one goal of the DPF was to
identify members of Hezbollah living and operating in Brazil.
Post is attempting to ascertain if any of the arrested
Lebanese drug traffickers have connections with Hezbollah or
any terrorist group. END SUMMARY

PRESS SPOTLIGHTS INTERNATIONAL CONNECTIONS AND COOPERATION


-------------

2. (SBU) On Friday, June 17, after eleven months of
investigation, Brazilian Federal Police arrested 17 members
of a Lebanese-organized drug ring operating in Sao Paulo and
southern Brazil. Extensive press reports on the operation
highlighted the transnational scope of the drug ring as well
as international law enforcement cooperation with the DPF
investigating the group. The press reports indicated that
authorities believe that the ring, which comprises five
Lebanese families, typically sends approximately 120 kilos of
cocaine per month from Brazil to Europe and launders the
proceeds by purchasing real estate and expensive luxury
automobiles in Brazil and Lebanon. (Note: The reports differ
on the quantity smuggled each month. End Note) Authorities
reportedly believe that the drugs enter Brazil from Bolivia
and Paraguay through the border city of Foz do Iguacu in the
Brazil-Paraguay-Argentina tri-border region and from Ponta
Pora on the border of the southwestern state of Mato Grosso
do Sul State and Paraguay. Ring members reportedly
transported the drugs to Sao Paulo, where they contracted
Brazilian, Dutch, Canadian, Nigerian and South African
couriers to smuggle the drugs to Frankfurt, Lisbon and
locations in the Middle East, passing through the airports of
Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Recife. Press
reports indicate that the authorities first became aware of
the drug-smuggling operation in June 2004, when three
Americans were arrested on drug charges in Istanbul, after
disembarking from a flight from Sao Paulo.

3. (U) Press reports indicate that the drug ring is believed
to comprise several families of Lebanese descent who, having
fled Lebanon during the 1980s, settled in Brazil, Germany and
Switzerland. The press reports describe the confiscation of
documents written in Arabic and a large, framed picture of
the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, in one of the
apartments of the ring members. The press indicated that USD
190,000 was found in the apartment of one of the ring members.

4. (U) Folha do Sao Paulo, Brazil,s largest circulation
daily, reported that in addition to dismantling the drug
ring, the DPF,s objective is to identify members of
Hezbollah operating in Brazil. The same press article claims
that Hezbollah has 140 members in Brazil. According to press
statements, documents confiscated during Operation 8Tamara8
will be passed to international intelligence agencies for
evaluation.

POST PERSPECTIVE ON THE OPERATION


5. (S) DEA personnel working with DPF agents note that a
possible Hezbollah connection was not a focus during the
course of the investigation. It should be noted that the GOB
has consistently denied that any Hezbollah agents or agents
of any other Middle Eastern terrorist organization operate in
Brazil. Operational aspects of the case are being reported
through DEA channels. Post DEA reports that the amount
seized in the raid was closer to USD 300,000, not USD
190,000, as reported in the press.

6. (S) DEA began investigating the ring in cooperation with
DPF after the three Americans were arrested in Istanbul,
Turkey and one in Sao Paulo in 2004. In addition, two other
Americans were arrested in Madrid and Amsterdam in early 2004
with links to this ring. Currently, DEA authorities in
Florida are conducting investigations on these Americans and
the Lebanese-Brazilian involved.

7. (S) COMMENT: DEA notes that one of the outstanding
questions from this operation is the final destination for
the profits of this lucrative cocaine trade. Past experience
has been that Brazilian authorities lack effective tools to
track the profits of illicit drug operations; coordination
between financial officials and counter-narcotics agents has
not been good. While DEA, DPF and German Federal Police were
arresting members of the Brazilian drug ring in 8Operation
Tamara,8 Ecuadorian authorities reportedly arrested seven
operatives in a drug smuggling/Hezbollah ring in Quito,
Ecuador in 8Operation Damascus.8 BBC On-Line indicates
that organizers of the Ecuadorian ring were sending seventy
percent of profits to Hezbollah.

8. (S) Regional Security Office (RSO) Sao Paulo is
coordinating with DEA to determine whether any of the
documents obtained in these, or other recent arrests include
U.S. passports or visas. RSO is investigating any possible
repercussions against post or personnel from these recent
arrests, or from the press reports identifying DEA,s
participation in the investigation. Post is attempting to
determine whether any of the arrested Lebanese-Brazilians
have connections to Hezbollah, or any other middle-eastern
terrorist network. So far we have not found any evidence of
such a connection. End Comment.
WOLFE