Cigarette trafficking has been used to fund Hizballah.
“Mosque Leader Charged in Cigarette Smuggling Ring,” from IPT News, January 23:
A leader of a South Carolina mosque was among 11 men arrested in a cigarette trafficking and money laundering scheme spanning several states. A 26-count indictment issued in November and unsealed last week accused Nasser Alquza, president of the Central Mosque of Charleston, and others of conspiracy, receiving stolen property, and related charges.
The arrests followed a government sting operation in which Alquza and
other defendants allegedly purchased over 6,800 cases of “stolen”
Marlboro cigarettes from undercover agents in exchange for over $7.5
million, the indictment said. The proceeds from the “stolen” cigarettes,
whose wholesale value was in excess of $15 million, was then laundered
through legitimate businesses owned or controlled by the defendants….
The indictment highlighted the illegal sale of cigarettes as a
serious problem facing law enforcement. It detailed how criminal
enterprises purchased large volumes of cigarettes in states with low
cigarette taxes such as North and South Carolina and illegally
transported them to states with higher cigarette taxes where they were
sold without paying the sales tax for higher profits.
The case is reminiscent of a Hizballah fundraising operation
from the 1990s based out of Charlotte, N.C., in which 18 defendants led
by Mohamad Hammoud were responsible for the illegal smuggling of more
than $8 million worth of cigarettes from North Carolina to Michigan.
Profits from the cigarette sales were sent to Hizballah in Lebanon. In
2002, Hammoud was sentenced to 150 years in prison. A judge subsequently
reduced Hammoud’s sentence to 30 years….