Canada as base:
CSIS Agency wiretaps show suspected operatives using laundered money to buy materiel
By Stewart Bell firstname.lastname@example.org National Post
Thursday, October 31, 2002
The terrorist group Hezbollah has been using Canada as an offshore base for raising money and purchasing supplies needed to carry out and videotape attacks against Israel, documents obtained by the National Post show. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service documents detail how Hezbollah has laundered tens of thousands of dollars through Canadian banks while drawing on the accounts to shop for military equipment. Hezbollah agents shopped for blasting devices, night-vision goggles, powerful computers and camera equipment used to record attacks against Israeli forces, according to dozens of CSIS wiretaps obtained yesterday. The Canadian operation was so successful that CSIS agents overheard suspected Hezbollah operatives in Vancouver in early 1999 congratulating each other in a monitored telephone conversation. "Ali Adham Amhaz informed Mohamad Hassan Dbouk that he was watching the latest news on today's operation involving Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Amhaz congratulated Dbouk for Hezbollah's success in their improving ability which was making Israel retaliate for the attacks."
Even as they lived in Canada with their families as immigrants the Hezbollah operatives apparently remained disdainful of their new surroundings, denouncing "the Canadians and the Zionists" in a wiretapped conversation. Hezbollah is a radical Shiite group formed in Lebanon in 1982 that is funded by Iran and Syria. It is responsible for kidnappings, hostage takings and bombings that killed hundreds of Americans in the early 1980s. Although defended recently as a political movement by Jean Chrétien, the Prime Minister, and Bill Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hezbollah has been running secret operations in Canada for more than a decade. Mr. Chrétien declined to condemn Hezbollah after he attended an event at the francophone summit in Beirut two weeks ago that was also attended by the group's leader.
But Canadian police and intelligence reports show the group has been using Canada in recent years to buy materiel, forge travel documents, raise money and steal luxury vehicles. CSIS reports dated April, 2002, show that in 1999 and 2000, Hezbollah sent detailed shopping lists to agents who were allegedly part of a network with operatives in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal who filled the orders and shipped the equipment back to Lebanon in courier packages. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were moved through various Canadian banks such as the Bank of Nova Scotia to finance purchases for what the participants referred to as the "resistance" and the "brave people." Canadian Hezbollah agents also discussed a scam they called a "miracle strike," which involved taking out life insurance on someone and then having them killed in a bombardment in Lebanon.
Two of the alleged Canadian agents, Lebanese immigrants identified as Mr. Dbouk and his brother-in-law Mr. Amhaz, shopped at a "military supply warehouse and looked at some military supplies and instruments in Vancouver." Mr. Dbouk inquired at one company about buying "any equipment used to blow up rocks." The agents were cautious to protect the secrecy of their work, although apparently unaware their every phone call was being recorded by CSIS agents who were already on to their clandestine procurement operation. "Amhaz expressed his concern about depositing large sums of money in the bank account and suggested that Dbouk give him smaller sums of money to avoid suspicion [by the banks]," CSIS wrote. "Dbouk advised Amhaz that he would give instructions that the money be transferred to Ali Bassal in Montreal, after which time Dbouk would fly/travel to Montreal to get the cash and return to B.C." Mr. Dbouk fled Canada and returned to Lebanon but Mr. Amhaz still resides in Burnaby, B.C. The U.S. sought to have him extradited to stand trial but dropped the case without explanation. Mr. Amhaz has denied any involvement with Hezbollah.
The extent of Hezbollah operations in Canada first came to light in the 1990s when an agent named Mohammed Hussein al-Husseini was arrested for deportation. He told CSIS about a vast cross-Canada network. He also confessed that agents had spied on Canadians and sent information about Canadian life and infrastructure back to Lebanon "in case there's a problem with Canada." In two cases, alleged Hezbollah agents wanted for terrorist activities overseas were found hiding out in Edmonton and Ottawa. One of them has been charged with taking part in a 1993 bombing attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 Americans. "Hezbollah has members in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto -- all of Canada," Mr. Al-Husseini, a member of Hezbollah's security organization, told CSIS before he was deported in 1994.
"Hezbollah wants to collect information on Canada, on life in Canada, its roads and so on, in case there's a problem with Canada." He was reportedly referring to videotapes of Canadian landmarks sent to Hezbollah. The RCMP has also linked auto theft rings in Ontario and Quebec to Hezbollah, saying that a portion of the criminal proceeds were funnelled to the group, and that luxury SUVs stolen in Canada were being driven by high-ranking Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon. The CSIS reports on Hezbollah's Canadian activities were made available recently to U.S. attorneys prosecuting accused operatives involved in a North Carolina cigarette smuggling ring.
© Copyright 2002 National Post