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LATIN AMERICA | 12-09-2023 17:11

United States Treasury hits Colombia-based Hezbollah group with sanctions

United States hits Colombia-based Hezbollah group with sanctions, key figure in clan alleged to have been previously involved in 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires

The United States announced sanctions Tuesday on a family group which allegedly funnels earnings from a Colombia-based charcoal export business to Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah group.

The US Treasury said a key figure in the Rada clan, Amer Mohamed Akil Rada, also took part in the 1994 attack against a Jewish community center in Argentina that killed 85.

It named seven individuals and companies in the group for sanctions, which aim at locking those named out of legitimate trade and finance networks and allow the seizure of assets under US jurisdiction.

The Treasury said Akil Rada now lives in Lebanon but was a key Hezbollah operative in South America for more than a decade.

In that position he coordinated various commercial enterprises for Hezbollah, including charcoal exports from Colombia to Lebanon.

"As a Hezbollah operative and leader, Amer uses as much as 80 percent of the proceeds of his commercial enterprise to benefit Hezbollah," the Treasury said.

Akil Rada's son Mahdy Akil Helbawi was also named for sanctions for running the family's Colombia charcoal company Zanga SAS.

Also named was Akil Rada's brother Samer Akil Rada, who was called a member of Hezbollah allegedly involved in drug trafficking and money laundering in multiple Latin American countries, including Venezuela and Belize.

A 2020 Atlantic Council report on Hezbollah's South American networks said the Rada family was based in Maicao, Colombia and had ties to a senior Hezbollah operative, Salman Raouf Salman, labeled a terrorist by the United States for overseeing the Argentina attack.

The report said Akil Rada's relatives operate out of Venezuela and are involved in the cryptocurrency industry.

It alleged that the Rada family is closely linked to Tareck El Aissami, the former Venezuelan vice president indicted in the United States on drug trafficking charges.

The report said the charcoal export business is often used as a cover for the cocaine trade.

"Today's action underscores the US government's commitment to pursuing Hezbollah operatives and financiers no matter their location," said Treasury Under Secretary Brian Nelson.

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