September 13, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Treasury Sanctions Latin America-Based Hezbollah Financial Network

September 13, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Treasury Sanctions Latin America-Based Hezbollah Financial Network

Latest Developments

The U.S. Department of the Treasury on September 12 sanctioned three people and their Latin American-based companies for conducting illicit financial activities for Hezbollah. The targets included brothers Amer Akil Rada and Samer Akil Rada, alongside Amer’s son, Mehdi Akil Helbawy. Treasury said that Amer and Samer are members of Hezbollah’s External Security Organization and that Amer played an active role in the 1994 terror attack against the AMIA, the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, that left 85 dead and 229 wounded.

Expert Analysis

“Over the past decades, Hezbollah has built a well-oiled, multibillion-dollar money-laundering and drug-trafficking machine in Latin America that cleans organized crime’s ill-gotten gains through multiple waypoints in the Western hemisphere, West Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. As Treasury’s designation of the Akil family shows, the networks involved are part terror and part crime. Hezbollah routinely leverages its operatives positioned overseas both to plot terror operations and to engage in financial crime.” — Emanuele Ottolenghi, FDD Senior Fellow

“The timing of the announcement, following the waivers to release billions of dollars to Hezbollah’s patron, is difficult to overlook. The administration’s Lebanon policy and its Iran policy, which are actually two sides of the same coin, offset these sporadic designations of Hezbollah entities, rendering them somewhat moot.” — Tony Badran, FDD Research Fellow

Money-Laundering Continues to Sustain Hezbollah Finances

According to a 2018 U.S. Treasury Department report, Hezbollah receives an estimated $700 million annually from Iran, while FDD analysts estimate the terrorist group raises another $300 million from a vast network of illegal businesses, many of which are tied up in the Latin American drug trade. The real figure for illicit income is likely several times higher. U.S. sanctions and the vagaries of the oil market have reduced Tehran’s ability to contribute, likely putting more pressure on Hezbollah to raise its own funds. Hezbollah does so by putting to use its greatest asset: an informal, clan-based network of large extended families, bound by blood, whose members are spread across the globe and well-integrated into the economic life of the countries where they live.

By constructing a financial laundromat run through local supporters, Hezbollah has become a permanent staple of the Latin American landscape, providing logistical and financial services to organized crime for a fee. Its networks are dual-use: Not only do they launder money, but they also provide resources, access to infrastructure, and logistical support for terror operations. This is especially the case if they are run, as was the case with the Akil brothers’ network, by Hezbollah’s External Security Organization agents.

Hezbollah will continue to leverage its networks to raise money from commissions paid in exchange for its services to criminal syndicates. And with global demand for recreational drugs such as cocaine constantly rising, this source of funding for Hezbollah’s terror operations will not decline without a more coordinated and robust international effort, including more sanctions like the ones Treasury just announced.

How Hezbollah Collaborates with Latin American Drug Cartels,” by Emanuele Ottolenghi

The Laundromat: Hezbollah’s Money Laundering and Drug Trafficking in Latin America,” by Emanuele Ottolenghi

A Match Made in Heaven: The Hezbollah-Amal Nexus,” by Emanuele Ottolenghi


Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran in Latin America Iran-backed Terrorism Lebanon Sanctions and Illicit Finance