Houthi radio celebrates Hezbollah fundraiser with ‘death to America, death to Israel’ video

The director-general of Houthi-affiliated radio station Sam FM, Hamoud Mohammad Sharaf, (L) is seen leading a chant, praising a fundraising campaign for the Iran-backed Lebanese militia group, Hezbollah. (Screen grab)
Updated 23 July 2019

Houthi radio celebrates Hezbollah fundraiser with ‘death to America, death to Israel’ video

  • The radio station claims that the campaign raised $295,000
  • The fundraising came after Hezbollah called on its supporters in March to donate money

DUBAI: A Houthi affiliated radio station released a video showing four men standing in front of wads of cash claimed to be for Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

In the video, which has been circulated on social media this week, the director-general of Houthi-affiliated radio station Sam FM, Hamoud Mohammad Sharaf, is seen leading a chant, praising a fundraising campaign for the Iran-backed Lebanese militia group, Hezbollah.

“From Yemen’s faith to Lebanon’s Resistance! God is great! Death to America! Death to Israel! Curses upon the Jews! Victory for Islam,” the men chant.

The Houthi Sam FM radio station held a fundraising campaign for Hezbollah called “Goodness of Yemen” between May 20 and June 30, 2019, during Ramadan.

The radio station claims that the campaign raised $295,000 (74,010,000 Yemeni rial).

The fundraising came after Hezbollah called on its supporters in March to donate money as it came under increasing pressure from sanctions intended to isolate it financially.

The United States, United Kingdom, member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Argentina deem Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Yemeni political analyst, Fatima Alasrar, wrote in May that the Houthis’ fundraising for Hezbollah is not surprising, as the militia’s ties to the group are “undeniable.”

Military support for the Houthis from Iran and Hezbollah “comes in different ways” and is “well documented,” Alasrar says, referencing a 2015 Financial Times article where two senior Hezbollah sources said that “hundreds of Lebanese and Iranian trainers and military advisers are in Yemen already.”

Meanwhile, a 2014 article by Reuters quoted a senior Iranian official saying that “the Quds Force, the external arm of the Revolutionary Guard, had a “few hundred” military personnel in Yemen who trained Houthi fighters.”

“This campaign to raise funds to Hezbollah is beyond a gesture of solidarity and commitment, the Houthis are proving themselves a reliable partner,” Alasrar told Arab News. 

“The Houthis have never cared to raise funds or direct it inwards towards their own starving population,” she added. 

An estimated 80 percent of the population – 24 million people – require some form of humanitarian or protection assistance, including 14.3 million who are in acute need, according to the United Nations 


The Gulf’s war on smugglers

Updated 22 August 2019

The Gulf’s war on smugglers

  • Recent busts have included cash, cannabis and Captagon
  • Tech-savvy criminals play cat-and mouse with tech-savvy criminals

DUBAI: Bulk cash couriers, narcotics mules, counterfeit goods, wildlife trafficking —  spotting smugglers is all part of a day’s work for customs officials and law enforcement professionals in the Gulf.

Experts say that illegal trafficking in all its guises is bringing in billions each year for criminals worldwide, and the problem is increasing across the globe and the region.

In Saudi Arabia this week alone, officials arrested four passengers attempting to smuggle SR3.1 million ($830,000) in cash out of Madinah’s airport, while Saudi Arabian Border Guards intercepted two boats carrying large quantities of cannabis into the Kingdom. In a third bust, Saudi customs thwarted two attempts to bring more than 2.5 million Captagon (amphetamine) pills hidden in two vehicles into the Kingdom via a port.

Adel Hamaizia, a research fellow for the Middle East and North Africa program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs at the think tank Chatham House, told Arab News that money laundering,  or cash smuggling, is a major trafficking problem for the Kingdom and wider GCC.

Smuggling of cash is a major trafficking issue for the Kingdom and region, adding to the problem of capital flight.  

“One of the methods aiding capital flight in the GCC is old-school smuggling of cash as well as precious metals,” he said. 

But trafficking of drugs, fuel and even wildlife are also adding to pressures facing customs officials.

“Cross-border fuel smuggling from Saudi Arabia into its neighbors has remained an enduring feature. However, energy pricing reforms in the Kingdom in recent years have stifled smugglers’ margins if not canceled them out altogether,” said Hamaizia. “When it comes to drugs, countries of the GCC serve as consumption destinations and transit hubs, but not production spaces.”

Many countries in the region serve as transit hubs for drug smuggling as a result of geography, infrastructure, porous borders and lengthy coastlines, he said.

“Drugs smuggled into GCC states include qat, opium, cannabis, and Captagon (the family of drugs known as amphetamines). Captagon is one of the major drugs smuggled from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt. 

“Wildlife smuggling such as houbara birds, pangolins, ivory, rhinoceros horns and others are also common across Gulf states. Doha serves as transit hubs for birds, mammals, ivory, and reptiles being transported between Africa and Asia.”

The Gulf is a transit point for trade passing through the region, so any and all types of illicit goods are smuggled.

Channing Mavrellis, of the think tank Global Financial Integrity, which works to curtail trade-related illicit financial flows, also highlighted the growing threat smugglers pose in the GCC. “The Gulf is a transit point for trade passing through the region, so any and all types of illicit goods are smuggled,” he said.

Experts say smuggling tactics are becoming increasingly sophisticated. “The methods used depend largely on the type of good being smuggled, its quantity and the level of risk/enforcement,” said Mavrellis. “For bulk cash smuggling or drug trafficking in smaller quantities, someone may simply conceal the illicit goods on their body or in their luggage. For larger quantities, smugglers may conceal the goods in a shipment of legitimate goods.”

However, Hamaizia warned that criminals are adopting new high-tech tactics. “The smuggling of lightweight drugs is now often supported by drones,” he said.

Smugglers are also turning to social media. In a report — Social Media and Drug Smuggling — published in journals earlier this year, authors noted the trend, saying: “Social media can be used for legal or illegal purposes by many individuals. Some may use these applications for drug smuggling. For example, Saudi Arabia Directorate General of Narcotics Control has arrested eight individuals for drug smuggling through social media.”

Saudi Arabia’s Border Guards this week intercepted two boats carrying large quantities of cannabis.  (Social media photo)

According to customs law jointly adopted by GCC countries, illegal transportation of goods can carry a jail term of up to 15 years. 

Meanwhile, many criminals are attempting to take advantage of the busy transit routes in the region.

Hamaizia said: “Traffickers and smugglers often opt for busier international airports where they may benefit from sloppier screening. Smugglers also focus on connecting flights, where screening is rushed and even non-existent in some cases.”

At Dubai International Airport, one of the region’s busiest hubs, authorities caught more than 1,000 people attempting to smuggle illegal goods into the UAE last year, with officials employing a wealth of new technologies. 

These include the Ionscan 500 DT, which can detect a wide range of military, commercial and homemade explosives as well as common illegal drugs, and the Thermo FirstDefender, a handheld device used to identify unknown solids or liquid chemicals.

Mavrellis said the challenge at busy transit routes was to search and question travelers while keeping operations running smoothly. 

“High volumes of international trade can make detecting smuggling difficult as customs agencies must strike a balance between trade facilitation and enforcement. Basically, it is the problem of finding a needle in a haystack — but without taking too much time,” he said.