US arrests Hezbollah members on charges of sending drug money to Syria

Hezbollah supporters carry a picture of their leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah flag in Lebanon, on Dec 28, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Members of the Hezbollah militant group were arrested on charges they used millions of dollars from the sale of cocaine in the United States and Europe to purchase weapons in Syria, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said on Monday.

Hezbollah has sent fighters to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's almost five-year-old civil war. It is designated a terrorist organisation by the US.

Those arrested include leaders of the network's European cell, who were taken into custody last week, the DEA statement said. Among them was Mohamad Noureddine, who the DEA accuses of being a Lebanese money launderer for Hezbollah's financial arm.

The United States has labelled Noureddine a specially designated global terrorist, it said.

The DEA did not give the total number of those arrested or say where they were apprehended.

The investigation "once again highlights the dangerous global nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism," the statement said.

Seven countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Belgium, were involved in the investigation that began in Feb 2015 and is ongoing.

The US Treasury Department last week imposed sanctions against Noureddine and Hamdi Zaher El Dine, another alleged Hezbollah money launderer. Noureddine's Trade Point International also was placed under sanctions.

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