“Is the current case connect with terrorism (with the Lebanese Hezbollah)? No, and if it were related, it would have been referred to the terrorism judge.” This is what the French Inspector General of Justice, Judge Baudoin Thouvenot, said when he was asked about the famous “Operation Cedar” case. The Lebanese Hezbollah was accused of having links with Colombian drug dealers to launder money in France and other European countries to “support its terrorist operations to purchase weapons Syria”. More than 14 Lebanese people hold different nationalities, and at the top of the list, we find Muhammad Noureddine and Mazen El-Atat.
The accusation per se is embarrassing because Iran and Russia provide weapons to Syria and not Hezbollah. Israel has carried over 1000 attacks on Syrian targets to destroy the Iranian flow of firearms to the Levant via sea and air. The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung wrongly claimed that investigators suspected money was transferred to Hezbollah when the French judge responsible for the investigation refused to confirm the allegation. The fabrication is weak and baseless.
The French authorities released al-Atat, acquitted him, and then imprisoned Noureddine, who confessed his relationship with the money laundrering circle. However, the intervention of the US Drug Enforcement Administration of the Ministry of Justice twisted the arm of the French officials to push them to hand over Al-Atat for his refusal to cooperate with the US. The DEA officials wouldn’t accept less than an explicit accusation and involvement of Hezbollah in the entire operation. This sets a precedent for the French judiciary, which appears to have been affected by the submission of French politicians to US pressure, in clear violation of international law.
Indeed, the decision to deport Mazen El-Atat to Washington was issued on April 7, 2021, by Prime Minister Jean Castex and ratified by Justice Minister Eric Dupont-Moretti, accused of interfering in two corruption cases when he was a lawyer and when he became Minister of Justice. However, Al-Atat’s defence attorneys submitted an objection before the State Consultative Council to challenge the extradition decision issued by the political authority after the judicial authorities acquitted Al Atat.
Mazen El-Atat spoke while he was at his home in the French capital, Paris, where he resides, awaiting the decision of the French Supreme Court to deport him according to the US will.
“I was arrested on the 12 of December 2016 at Charles De Gaule airport and kept in custody for a year. The Judicial Investigating Judge Baudoin Thouvenot summoned me to his office and did not charge me for being involved in the money laundering case in which Mohamed Noureddine was accused, confessed, and in consequence, sentenced for seven years. A few months ago, the French authority decided to release him before the end of his term. He is now at liberty, awaiting the final step to leave the country. When I was acquitted in court, the French authorities waited for me outside the courtroom, accusing me of belonging to a gang of evildoers. However, it was proven that I was not involved in any illegal act except that I am a friend of Noureddine. I was imprisoned again without any investigation because of a DEA arrest warrant despite its illegality and the absence of any authority for the US over the French judiciary. All that I am asked to do is reveal a non-existent link between Hezbollah and the Colombian drug trade and conclude a deal with the Americans. And when the French investigative judge was asked about Hezbollah’s relationship in the process, he said that he could not confirm this relationship at all. So why should I confess anything I am not related to?” said Mazen El-Atat.
French media “Le Point” have issued misleading headlines and stories claiming that Hezbollah has activities in France, “weaving its threads in Europe and storing explosives in it”. The truth is entirely different, and it relates to money transfer deals carried out by a group of Lebanese money changers who have established relationships with Western sources and intermediates to facilitate their money laundering in exchange for a handsome commission. From and to Beirut, gangs of drug dealers work to launder their money via Lebanese businesspeople breaking European law by looking for a fast and generous income.
Muhammad Nour al-Din owned a stock exchange and stock market exchange office in Lebanon, where he used to secure the interaction of money between Lebanese merchants and others money holders in the West. In several transactions, he confessed that he knew that some of these traded drugs and were laundering their money via Noureddine’s network. Noureddine’s network was composed of Lebanese customers who used to buy expensive cars and watches from Switzerland, Germany, and other European countries. The circle would use cash to buy expensive items in Europe and send these to Lebanon to sell. All of the circle members in Europe were arrested,