by Yoni Hersch and Israel Hayom Staff
Shiite terrorist group, four other crime syndicates are a "top transnational organized crime threats" the U.S. plans to target with tougher measures, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says
The United States on Monday designated Lebanon's Hezbollah and four other groups as international crime organizations.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions named the Iranian-backed terrorist group, alongside Central American street gang MS-13, Mexico's Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, the Sinaloa Cartel, an international organized crime syndicate based in Mexico, and Colombian drug cartel Clan del Golfo as "top transnational organized crime threats" that Washington plans to target with tougher investigations and prosecutions.
A special team of "experienced international narcotics trafficking, terrorism, organized crime, and money laundering prosecutors" will investigate individuals and networks providing support to Hezbollah, Sessions said in a press conference.
"With this new task force in place, our efforts will be more targeted and more effective than ever," Sessions added, explaining that in 90 days task-force members will give him specific recommendations "to prosecute these groups and ultimately take them off of our streets."
The United States has in the past imposed several rounds of sanctions on Hezbollah and officials affiliated with the Shiite group, which the State Department designated as a terrorist organization in 1997.
Sessions described the latest designations as “our next steps to carry out President [Donald] Trump’s order to take MS-13 and other [transnational criminal organizations] off of our streets.
"Taking on transnational criminal groups like the cartels is a priority for this president and for his administration. The same day I was sworn in as attorney general, President Trump ordered me to disrupt and dismantle these groups."
Session said the five organizations had been identified by the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force, and the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
The special task force, headed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, will "coordinate our efforts and develop a plan to take each of these groups off of our streets for good," he said.
It will comprise specialized subcommittees, each led by a prosecutor experienced in investigating and prosecuting the target group.
The subcommittee on Hezbollah will be headed by Ilan Graff, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York overseeing the prosecution of two alleged Hezbollah members, the first Hezbollah operatives to be charged with terrorism in the United States, and staffed by members of the Hezbollah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team.
"Transnational Criminal Organizations – whether they are gangs, drug trafficking cartels or terrorist groups – are a scourge," Rosenstein said Monday. "They sow violence and sell poisonous drugs. They bribe public officials and fuel corruption and they terrorize law-abiding citizens."
Yoni Hersch and Israel Hayom Staff
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