Hezbollah denies drugs, money laundering charges
BEIRUT - Lebanese group Hezbollah on Thursday denied charges by the United States that the Shiite militant movement was involved in drug trafficking and money laundering schemes to fund its activities.
"The United States' allegations that Hezbollah is funding its activities illegitimately is merely another attempt to tarnish the image of the resistance in Lebanon ... after the failure and exposure of US intelligence operations in our country," said a statement from the Iranian- and Syrian-backed group, which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Washington.
"Hezbollah categorically denies the false charges of its direct or indirect involvement in money laundering, drug trafficking or illegal banking operations."
A cold war has been heating up for months between Washington and Hezbollah, with the Shiite group denouncing the planting of "spies" in its ranks and the United States accusing the movement of illegal financial and drug dealings.
Earlier this month, US prosecutors charged that Hezbollah was part of a massive web funneling hundreds of millions of dollars in criminal proceeds through the United States to West Africa.
A criminal complaint in a New York federal court targeted the Lebanese Canadian Bank and two Lebanon-based foreign exchange houses, the Hassan Ayash Exchange Co and Ellissa Holding, in the alleged scheme to launder profits from narcotics dealing and other criminal activities.
US authorities also announced the indictment of alleged international drug dealer Ayman Joumaa, who is reportedly tied to the Hassan Ayash and Ellissa companies.
Joumaa is accused of using the money laundering scheme for funds made in importing cocaine from Mexico to the United States and is suspected of having links to Hezbollah and the powerful Zeta Mexican drug cartel.
In June, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah revealed that members of his group had confessed to being CIA agents and slammed the US embassy in Lebanon as a "den of spies".
The embassy has dismissed the accusations as "empty."