Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Going After the FARC is Important in Terrorism Fight
The indictment of 50 top leaders of Colombia's Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is a sign of the increasing importance U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities are placing on the extensive possibilities that the flow of FARC's illicit money provides to aid other terrorist organizations, including Islamic radicals.

Some intelligence efforts have been focused on the tri-border area of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. But until recently no consenus had emerged in the intelligence or law enforcement communities over the existence of links between Islamic terrorism and the massive amount of drug trafficking revenues, comingled with tens of millions of dollars from contraband and counterfeit goods, that flow through the region.

There has been no solid evidence that the financial network of the FARC overlaps with the Islamic groups. While it is difficult to imagine that there are clear barriers to doing business when that much money is in play, so little is known from human intelligence that the reporting has been weak for years. That could be changing.

Because the amounts of money sloshing through the illicit money channels in Latin America are so large-billions from FARC-controlled cocaine and heroin trafficking, many millions more from other criminal activities-it is impossible to trace where the money goes.

A host of financial institutions, from banks to informal exchange houses to merchants willing to sell their products for cash, all help launder the funds. This needs to be juxaposed with another reality which is often overlooked or ignored: There have been many signs of radical Islamic activity in the tri-border region, from the reported visit of Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 1995 to 1999 arrests of several al Qaeda-linked operatives in the region.

The ethnic Lebanese community sends money back to Hezbollah, as to the communities of West Africa, Panama and elsewhere. Iran, with the help of Hezbollah operatives, have carried out several attacks against Jewish facilities in Argentina. Hamas is believed to make millions off of counterfeit goods in the region.

Investigators are now finding that some of the banks and financial institutions that handle the rivers of dirty money also have possible accounts of leaders of the international Muslim Brotherhood, and through those accounts, channel funds to radical Islamic organizations, including al Qaeda.

What is possibly more disturbing is that the banks operate a network of shell companies in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, using the system perfected by the Brotherhood in Europe and Africa. This makes following the money difficult and understanding the financial movements almost impossible. For several decades Yousef Nada and other leaders of the Brotherhood have shown how successful this formula is. In emerging regions of the world, where corporate registeries are antiquated and laws obsolete, it is even easier to do.

This does not necessarily mean that the FARC is directly or even indirectly funding Islamic radicals. But, as recent events have shown, the intelligence community has long underestimated the willingness of Islamic radicals to deal with infidels. What it could mean is that going after the FARC's financial infrastructure in Latin America could have the unexpected but positive result of damaging the structures that also facilitate the movement of funds by al Qaeda and others.
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