After years on the run, Hezbollah financier lands in Brazil police net
Brasilia, Sept 25: The Brazilian police have revealed that they have caught hold of Assad Ahmad Barakat, a Lebanese national believed to be one of the frontline international financiers for the Hezbollah group, IntelNews.org reported.
During its civil war in the mid-1980s, Barakat fled Lebanon to Paraguay and started his business of export and import and eventually acquired the citizenship of the Latin American country. He soon grew a small business empire there but maintained strong links with Hezbollah back home, the report added.
In a decade's time, Barakat became an active representative of the Hezbollah, a paramilitary group popular among Lebanon's Shiite Muslims. The IntelNews report said that Barakat believed to use his Paraguayan passport to travel to Iran, a Shia-dominate country, and Lebanon at least once in a year to meet Hezbollah leaders.
'One of the most prominent & influential Hezbollah members'
In 2001, under pressure of the United States, Barakat was charged with money-laundering by the Paraguayan authorities in absentia. He was nabbed in Brazil the next year and extradited to Paraguay where he faced the law and got six years of imprisonment. However, Barakat was back to the job of fundraising for Hezbollah after getting released in 2008. He used fake passports to travel frequently to countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile and other nations in Latin America and he did so despite being tagged by Washington as "one of the most prominent and influential members of the [Hezbollah] terrorist organization," the report said. He was wanted in Paraguay and Argentina for various offences.
Finally, it was on September 21 when the Brazilian police announced that Barakat had been arrested in the city of Foz do Iguaçu, which is in southern Brazil, near the Argentina and Paraguay borders. The place from where Barakat was arrested is known for money-laundering, drug trafficking and forged currency smuggling.
It is yet not known whether Barakat will face charges in Brazil or will be sent back to Paraguay or Argentina, the IntelNews report added.