The investigation was initiated by the American investigative website ProPublica and the international investigative organization ICIJ, and 45 media outlets from all over the world participated in it, including the Israeli investigative body Shomarim. Journalists Uri Blao and Daniel Dolev who participated in the investigation published a section of the investigation called Shadow Diplomates on Ynet.
The investigation revealed that convicted drug dealers, arms dealers, terrorists, sex offenders and crooks served as honorary consuls around the world, and that honorary consuls served the purposes of some of the most corrupt governments in the world, including North Korea, Syria and South Sudan. The position of honorary consul was created by countries that could not afford to have official missions. Unlike professional diplomats, honorary consuls are citizens of the country in which they work.
The main discovery in the investigation is that nine honorary consuls in the world have been identified as directly connected to terrorist organizations, most of them to Hezbollah. “Hezbollah realized that if it uses those honorary consuls to move things from one place to another, they are not only exempt from punishment, but no one will ever stop them,” David Asher, a senior economic adviser in the field of combating terrorism at the US Department of Defense, is quoted as saying. “You show your diplomatic passport, and no one asks questions.”
One of the first cases in which the use of the consular institution emerged was during the investigation of an arms dealer identified with Hezbollah named Fawzi Jaber. In 2012, he met at a hotel in Ghana with DEA agents posing as representatives of a guerrilla organization and a Colombian drug cartel. The agents claimed that they were interested in purchasing weapons in order to harm the American forces and thus undermine the Colombian government.
Another honorary consul who, according to the investigation, cooperated with Hezbollah is Ali Khalil Meiri, a Lebanese who immigrated to Paraguay. In 2019, he was appointed to the position of honorary consul in the country on behalf of South Sudan. In the raid on his apartment, the police found an entire archive of Hezbollah: films of terrorist attacks, interviews with suicide terrorists, and videos calling for harm to the US and Israel.
Other names mentioned in the investigation are Ali Saada and Ibrahim Taher, both born in Lebanon who are suspected of having smuggled money and laundered it for Hezbollah. Another Lebanese businessman suspected by the Americans is Mohamed Ibrahim Bazi, who served as Gambia’s honorary consul in Lebanon.
Another case of suspected terrorist financing revealed in the investigation is that of Aziz Ibrahim Nasser, born in Sierra Leone and a member of a Lebanese family that was involved in the diamond trade. It is alleged that the family’s income was used to finance terrorist activities in the Middle East.
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