Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant recently issued an order to uncover a gold smuggling operation between Iran and Venezuela that is funding Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror activity, bypassing sanctions.
In a signed document, the Minister revealed that dozens of kilograms of gold were smuggled on an Iranian Mahan Air flight, which is subject to US sanctions, from Venezuela to Europe and Syria. The funds from the smuggled gold were transferred to Hezbollah.
It said the smuggling ring was uncovered during a joint effort between the National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing of Israel (NBCTF) and the Defense Ministry, along with the Israel Police and the Tax Authority.
The document published the names of a number of figures involved in the smuggling operation, mainly Badr Ad-Din Naimi Musawi, an Iranian businessman who owns two real estate companies registered in Britain, “Lotus Universal” and “Strattonview Properties Limited”, and the international trade company “Trading Acs” registered in Dubai.
Musawi is also a key player in the Iranian efforts to use several Latin American countries as intermediaries to evade sanctions on its oil exports and financial transactions, the document noted.
It also mentioned the name of Hamid Evranjad, the CEO of Mahan Air, who is also part of an effort by Iran to strengthen ties in South America and ultimately use those ties to bolster its own terrorist activity.
Also part of this gold trade scheme are high-ranking Hezbollah officials, including Ali Kasir, the representative of Hezbollah’s Economic Affairs Ministry in Tehran, as well as Mohammad Kasir, the head of Hezbollah’s logistics unit who dealt with the transfer of funds after the gold had been turned into cash.
“Iran sells oil to Venezuela to evade US, European and international sanctions. The price of oil is paid in gold,” the Israeli Minister’s document said.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force and Hezbollah then smuggle the gold from Venezuela to Iran to finance the activities of Tehran-backed militias in Lebanon, it added.
After the gold reaches Iran, it is transferred to currency in Türkiye, and perhaps other countries in Eastern Europe, as well as in Syria. The funds resulting from the deal are then sent to the Lebanese Hezbollah party.
The Israelis estimate the profit generated from this gold trade scheme at millions of dollars.
The Minister’s order came after an Iranian plane was detained in Argentina in mid-2022 on suspicion of also transporting gold.
The plane was registered under the commercial name of Emtrasur, a Venezuelan state-owned company. However, the plane was owned by Mahan Air of Iran, which the US government has sanctioned. It was granted to Venezuela for evading sanctions.
The plane made at least six trips between Caracas and Tehran, and between Moscow and Tehran in the winter and spring of 2022.
In June, a Washington court had transmitted a request to Argentine authorities to confiscate the cargo plane.