Rothfus Releases Statement on Golden Hydra Report
WASHINGTON – Congressman Keith Rothfus (PA-12) issued the following statement after the release of the report by Asymmetrica and the Counter Extremism Project entitled Golden Hydra: The Corner of Latin America that Funds Terrorist and Criminal Empires & Threatens Global Security:
“The Tri-Border Area (TBA) of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil, also known as the ‘Golden Hydra,’ has been a safe haven for transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) and foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) conducting illicit activity and money laundering,” said Congressman Rothfus. “After the September 11 attacks, the TBA became a sanctuary for terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, not to mention various drug trafficking organizations. Today’s report provides new information about the vast network of criminal and terrorist groups with operations there that generate and launder massive amounts of money. Hezbollah generates proceeds from illicit activities that measure in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually, possibly billions. Hezbollah is also a major global drug trafficking organization. The information in Asymmetrica’s report provides my colleagues and the international community with the information to better understand this growing threat. It is up to the United States to engage with our international partners to stop these dangerous organizations from continuing to spread corruption, crime, and terror around the world.”
Congressman Rothfus delivered the following address as the keynote speaker at the Golden Hydra Report Launch:
“Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Keith Rothfus. I represent the 12th Congressional District of Pennsylvania.
“I sit on both the House Judiciary Committee and the Financial Services Committee. Specifically, I participate with the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Crime & Terrorism, and the Financial Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance.
“My work with both committees covers Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs), Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), threat finance, and the convergence between TCOs and FTOs.
“At a recent hearing last week with Acting DEA Administrator, Robert Patterson, I asked him about concerns regarding the growing overlap of cartels and TCOs. He noted his concern and said “the world has gotten very small for these organizations.”
“One of those organizations is Hezbollah, and it has both FTO and TCO elements of its operations. We know from various media reports and open source materials that Hezbollah developed extremely lucrative criminal enterprises and networks, especially in Central and South America.
“The recent news headlines about Iran’s terrorist proxy cover their hostile and destabilizing actions throughout the Middle East, especially toward Israel. But, I am encouraged that today’s event will address other parts their global operations in South America’s Tri-border region.
“The Tri-border region has been concerning for a long time with nefarious connections to various terrorist groups and TCOs. But, the region’s connections to Hezbollah have become especially worrisome.
“Reportedly, Hezbollah’s illicit trade activities are now measured in the hundreds of millions dollars, if not billions. Over the last decade, Hezbollah even transformed into a major global narcotics trafficker.
“Without a doubt, a significant portion of the proceeds from their illicit activity are used to finance global terrorist operations.
“A shocking Politico piece last December revealed some of Hezbollah’s illicit operations, and how the Obama Administration purposely ignore it. But, the US government is finally waking up to this worldwide threat. The report being released today and events like this will help the rest of the world wake up too.
“In January, the Department of Justice created the Hezbollah Financing & Narcoterrorism Team, which was tasked with investigating Hezbollah’s networks and prosecuting affiliated persons when appropriate.
“Furthermore, the Terrorism & Illicit Finance subcommittee held a hearing on the subject of TCOs this past March. I am hopeful that other Congressional committees will follow suit, especially as it relates to the Tri-border region.
“As Hezbollah remains involved in a wide variety of illicit trade practices, the Tri-border region will likely continue play an important role for many TCOs, Hezbollah, and most likely a few state actors too.
“So, it is up to the international community, the US, and our Central and South American counterparts do something about it.”