Financing Hezbollah Â With Super Mario? Play station Jihad is a new one:
Here’s betting ICE agents said, “Game over.”
Cue the sad noise when Mario dies by mushroom: federal agents have charged threeÂ Miami businessmen with conspiring to smuggle videogame consoles to a shopping center inÂ Paraguay that funds political terrorist groupÂ Hezbollah.
Khaled T. Safadi, Ulises Talavera, and Emilio Gonzalez-Neira were arrested Thursday following a nearly three-year investigation of their Miami-based export and freight-forwarding businesses. ICE agents working with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force say the three falsified invoices and export paperwork and used a network of fake addresses to mask the true destination of thousands of Sony cameras and Playstations: the Galeria Page Mall in Cuidad del Este.
The U.S. Treasury has identified Galeria Page as the headquarters for Lebanon-based Hezbollah in the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay; they say the manager pays a regular quota to Hezbollah based on the center’s sales.
Federal prosecutors say wire transfer payments to the Miami shippers from their contact at Galeria Page, Paraguayan nationalÂ Samer Mehdi, were routed through various other business to conceal their origin. Mehdi has also been charged but remains at large.
A source said the alleged smuggling rind made “hundreds of millions” of dollars for Hezbollah. While Hezbollah is generally regarded in the Middle East as a resistance movement, the United States, among other countries, considers it a terrorist organization. The group has engaged in several armed conflicts with Israel and have been accused of a string of high-profile attacks against U.S., French, and Israeli forces in Lebanon.
The three Miamians face up to 35 years in prison each; Safadi’s lawyer Michael Tein is already dismissively referring to the case as “the Great Sony PlayStation Caper.”
“Believe it or not,” he said, “this indictment actually charges these gentleman with supporting Hezbollah by shipping them Sony PlayStations. I guess that’s a new type of weapon of mass destruction.”