While the pandemic of coronavirus has slowed down worldwide economic activity, fraudulent activity has witnessed a surge over the last few month, International scammers hoping to take advantage of the mobilization of security services around the virus to operate more easily. Extremists groups and Terrorist organizations are as well trying to expand their footprint in this context, hoping to operate more smoothly.
But in the Kingdom Morocco, authorities remain vigilant, the National Brigade of the Judicial Police (BNPJ) announced having arrested this Wednesday a leading international swindler linked to Hezbollah. This 57-year-old man of Lebanese origin was identified thanks to an investigation conducted by the General Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DGST), the Moroccan secret services.
According to a statement released by the authorities, searches conducted by Moroccan investigators found several foreign passports in the suspect’s home that were listed as stolen in the Interpol database. In addition, the Hezbollah-linked suspect claimed to represent international companies and used this false status to conduct fraudulent operations to extract substantial sums of money from alleged victims.
According to several credible sources, the investigation is expected to determine whether the fraudulently obtained funds were intended for the financing of Hezbollah or whether the alleged perpetrator was reserving them for another purpose.
The suspect is in custody of the Moroccan police and should be thoroughly investigated under the authority of the King’s prosecutor in coordination with the countries involved in the alleged theft of identity documents, including Portugal, Italy, and France, as well as Interpol.
Hezbollah uses criminal activities for its funding
Hezbollah is regularly singled out for its activities abroad to raise funds for this Shiite political movement based in Lebanon and actively supported by Tehran. The United States, as well as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization. According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a leading American Think-Tank, “Hezbollah is a Shiite Muslim political party and militant group based in Lebanon, where its extensive security apparatus, political organization, and social services network fostered its reputation as “a state within a state.” Founded in the chaos of the fifteen-year Lebanese Civil War, the Iran-backed group is driven by its opposition to Israel and its resistance to Western influence in the Middle East.”
In addition, it is widely believed that Hezbollah uses criminal activities to finance some of its operations, as it was revealed by Foreign Affairs magazine. In a context where pressure is mounting in the Middle East, as well as in Iran, Security services are therefore increasing their vigilance towards any fraudulent activity that might be linked with the Iran-Backed Movement.
This is particularly difficult in a context where a large part of the material and human resources of the various security services are concentrated on fighting the pandemic and complying with the various preventive measures ordered by the States. Moreover, the tense situations that have prevailed for several months have allowed many organizations engaged in criminal activities to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis to try to increase their advantage and carry out operations. This has resulted in a resurgence of terrorist attacks in Europe, but also in the dismantling of many groups that were preparing to carry out attacks.
Ties between Hezbollah and Polisario Front?
In Morocco, the recent recognition on December the 10th by the United States of the Kingdom’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, as well as the resumption of diplomatic relations with Israel has also led the authorities to redouble their vigilance with regard to criminal activities that could emanate from groups linked to Tehran. This comes at a time when Iran has announced that it wants to boost its nuclear program by enriching uranium by more than 20%, in contradiction with the international agreement signed under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency. According to several experts, Tehran would seek to take advantage of the floating period during the American presidential transition to push its advantage and force the Americans to return to the negotiating table.
As early as May 2018, according to Reuters, Morocco highlighted the links between Hezbollah and the Polisario Front separatist organization that claims Western Sahara. The Kingdom then denounced the collusion between the movement supported by Tehran and the Polisario Front, supported and financed by Algeria. Following this statement, Morocco broke off diplomatic relations with Tehran and intensified its efforts to identify Hezbollah relays that would be active in Morocco or in the region, in coordination with the security services in the area.