Brazilian police arrest fugitive linked to Hezbollah

In this file photo, Lebanese citizen Assad Ahmad Barakat, who was then facing tax evasion charges, is escorted by police to a courthouse in Asuncion, Paraguay. (AP)
Updated 22 September 2018
0

Brazilian police arrest fugitive linked to Hezbollah

  • Police took Assad Ahmad Barakat into custody in the border city of Foz do Iguacu
  • In 2004, the US Treasury Department accused Barakat of serving as a treasurer for Hezbollah

SAO PAULO: Brazilian police on Friday arrested a fugitive sought in Paraguay who is accused by US officials of belonging to Lebanon's Hezbollah militia and of being a key financier of terrorism.
Police took Assad Ahmad Barakat into custody in the border city of Foz do Iguacu, which is home to the famous Iguazu Falls and sits where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet.
Authorities in Paraguay are seeking Barakat on allegations of false representation, police said, and Brazil's Supreme Court authorized his arrest earlier this month. The Brazilian federal prosecutor's office said in a statement that Barakat's case meets the requirements for an arrest with a view to extradition.
In Paraguay, Barakat is accused of presenting a declaration of incorrect nationality and omitting information about the loss of nationality, the prosecutors' statement said. Barakat was born in Lebanon but has lived in South America for years.
Prosecutors said they had information that Barakat applied for refugee status in Brazil when he learned of Paraguay's arrest warrant, but that only the recognition of refugee status would prevent his extradition, which was not the case here.
In 2004, the US Treasury Department accused Barakat of serving as a treasurer for Hezbollah, which it considers a terrorist organization, and ordered American banks to freeze any of his assets found in the United States. At the time, Barakat was serving time in a Paraguayan prison for tax evasion. Two years later it added several of his associates to its watchlist, on which Barakat remains.
Brazilian police said Argentine authorities have accused associates of Barakat of laundering $10 million in a scheme in casinos, and they have frozen the group's assets.
Barakat was extradited from Brazil to Paraguay in 2003 and was convicted of tax evasion. He returned to live in Brazil in 2008 after he was released from prison, police said.

 

SAO PAULO: Brazilian police on Friday arrested a fugitive whom US authorities have accused of serving as Hezbollah's financier and who has repeatedly been accused of illegal activity in a lawless border area where three South American nations meet.
Police took Assad Ahmad Barakat into custody in the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguacu, which is home to the famous Iguazu Falls and sits where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay converge. The Tri-Border Area, as it is known, has long been a haven for smugglers, traffickers and counterfeiters, and US authorities and others have alleged it is also a redoubt for terrorism support and financing.
Authorities in Paraguay are seeking Barakat on allegations of false representation, police said, and Brazil's Supreme Court authorized his arrest earlier this month.
The Brazilian federal prosecutor's office said Barakat's case met the requirements for an arrest with a view to extradition — but it was not clear when or if that would happen.
In 2004, the US Treasury Department said Barakat was one of the most influential members of Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, which the US considers a terrorist organization. It accused him of using his businesses in the Tri-Border Area as a front for fundraising for Hezbollah as well as coercing local shopkeepers into giving money to the organization.
A Treasury official at the time said he had used "every financial crime in the book" to fund Hezbollah and "underwrite terror," and the department ordered his assets frozen in the United States. Barakat was then serving a prison sentence for tax evasion in Paraguay.
Two years later it added several of his associates to a list of people whose US assets can be frozen and whom Americans and U.S. companies are prohibited from dealing with. Barakat remains on that list.
In a 2001 interview with The Associated Press, Barakat acknowledged that he was a "sympathizer" of Hezbollah but said that did not mean that he supported terrorism.
Attempts to reach Barakat's lawyer were unsuccessful.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which researches and advocates against anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, praised the arrest.
"We have monitored international terrorist activity in the lawless contiguous Triple Frontier region for some 20 years," Shimon Samuels, the center's director for international relations, said in a statement. He added that he hopes the arrest was "a sign that the three countries will begin to drive Hezbollah out of Latin America."
Beyond the longstanding accusations of his involvement with terrorism, Barakat has faced other legal troubles over the years and was even extradited from Brazil to Paraguay once before, according to police. They said he returned to Brazil in 2008 after serving his sentence.
In Paraguay, Barakat is currently accused of presenting a declaration of incorrect nationality and omitting information about the loss of nationality, Brazilian prosecutors said Friday. Barakat was born in Lebanon but has lived in South America for years.
Prosecutors said they had information that Barakat applied for refugee status in Brazil when he learned of Paraguay's arrest warrant, but that only the recognition of refugee status would prevent his extradition, which was not the case here.
Brazilian police also said Argentine authorities have accused associates of Barakat of laundering $10 million in a scheme in casinos, and they have frozen the group's assets.


EU leaders meeting to endorse Brexit divorce deal

Updated 24 min 59 sec ago
0

EU leaders meeting to endorse Brexit divorce deal

  • British Prime Minister Theresa May said the deal was the best the world’s fifth-largest economy could hope for

BRUSSELS/LONDON: European Union leaders will meet on Nov. 25 to endorse a Brexit divorce deal but British Prime Minister Theresa May was mauled by opponents, allies and mutinous members of her party who warned the agreement could sink her premiership.
May won the backing of her senior ministers after a five-hour meeting on Wednesday though she now faces the much more perilous struggle of getting parliament, which has the final say, to approve the agreement.
It is unclear when that vote might happen.
“If nothing extraordinary happens, we will hold a European Council meeting in order to finalize and formalize the Brexit agreement,” European Council President Donald Tusk said after meeting EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
More than two years after the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the EU, May said the deal was the best the world’s fifth-largest economy could hope for and that the other options were leaving with no deal or thwarting Brexit.
But in a sign of just how hard the vote in the British parliament might be, Shailesh Vara, who backed EU membership in the 2016 referendum, quit on Thursday as a junior minister in May’s government.
“I cannot support the Withdrawal Agreement that has been agreed with the European Union,” Vara said as he resigned as a Northern Ireland minister.
“We are a proud nation and it is a sad day when we are reduced to obeying rules made by other countries who have shown they do not have our best interests at heart. We can and must do better than this.”
Nick Timothy, one of May’s former chiefs of staff, said her deal was a capitulation that parliament would reject.
“When parliament rejects the prime minister’s proposal, as surely it will, there will still be time for ministers to negotiate something better,” Timothy wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Timothy, who resigned after May’s botched gamble on a snap election that lost her party its majority in parliament, said Britain should use its security contribution as a bargaining chip to get a better deal.
May will give a statement to parliament on Thursday on the deal which she hopes will satisfy both Brexit voters and EU supporters by ensuring close ties with the bloc after Britain leaves on March 29.
The ultimate outcome for the United Kingdom remains uncertain: scenarios range from a calm divorce to rejection of May’s deal, potentially sinking her premiership and leaving the bloc with no agreement, or another referendum.
Getting a deal through parliament will be difficult. She will need the votes of about 320 of the 650 lawmakers.
“The parliamentary arithmetic has looked tight for some time,” Goldman Sachs said in a note to clients. “It now looks tighter, given signs of greater unity among those who object to the draft Agreement.”
“We’re in the Brexs**t — Theresa May’s soft Brexit deal blasted by ALL sides,” read the headline in The Sun, Britain’s best-read newspaper.
The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party which props up May’s government, said it would not back any deal that treated the British province differently from the rest of the United Kingdom.