Barakat is wanted by Paraguayan authorities for identity theft and by Argentine authorities for money laundering on behalf of Hezbollah. He operated Hezbollah’s financial network in the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of South America, and owned several businesses that conducted money laundering activities to generate funds for the terrorist group. Barakat, who has close ties with Hezbollah’s leadership, was the group’s chief of military operations and fundraising in the TBA in the 1990s.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated “Assad Ahmad Barakat” as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 on June 10, 2004.
Assad Ahmad Barakat is a U.S.-designated key Hezbollah financier who has operated in the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of South America––the region that straddles the borders of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina.* Barakat, who has close ties with Hezbollah’s leadership, was the group’s chief of military operations and fundraising in the TBA in the 1990s.* He operated Hezbollah’s financial network in the region, and owned several businesses of his own that conducted money laundering activities to generate funds for the group.* Barakat was indicted by Paraguay in 2001, and served a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence in the country after he was arrested in Brazil in 2002.* He was released from Paraguayan custody in 2009.* He is wanted by Paraguayan authorities for identity theft and by Argentine authorities for money laundering on behalf of Hezbollah in an Argentine casino. In September 2018, Brazilian police arrested Barakat near the Paraguayan and Argentine borders.*
In the mid-1980s, Barakat immigrated from Lebanon to Paraguay to escape the Lebanese Civil War.* He soon began operating several businesses based in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, including Apollo Import Export and Mondial Engineering and Construction, through which he conducted money laundering schemes to generate funds for Hezbollah.* Barakat also operated additional businesses based in Lebanon, Chile, and the United States, at times with the assistance of his brothers Hatem and Hamzi.* He also collected funds for Hezbollah by pressuring Lebanese shopkeepers in the TBA to pay a quota to the group under threat of putting their family members on a “Hezbollah blacklist.”* Barakat regularly sent large sums of money to the group in Lebanon and Iran and even personally carried funds to Lebanon, traveling with a Paraguayan passport as of 2000.*
In addition to his direct fundraising roles, Barakat reportedly served as the deputy financial director of a mosque in Brazil, as the deputy for another Hezbollah financial official, Ali Muhammad Kazan, and eventually as the primary liaison in the TBA for Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah.* He was also reportedly one of two individuals in charge of distributing counterfeit U.S. currency in the TBA.* As of 2001, Barakat reportedly traveled to Lebanon and Iran annually to meet with Hezbollah’s leadership.*
*** Born in Lebanon, his Place of residence is Foz do Iguacú, Brazil; Iquique, Chile; Ciudad del Este, Paraguay (as of 2006) currently in Brazilian custody.
Barakat was also involved in planning Hezbollah’s military operations. He was an organizer and key financier of Hezbollah’s 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured over 300.* Barakat relayed information to Hezbollah’s leadership about Arabs in the TBA who traveled to the United States or Israel. He regularly hosted and attended meetings with other senior Hezbollah leaders in the TBA, such as one meeting in Brazil in the fall of 2000 at which they discussed potential assassination plots. Authorities later discovered videos on Barakat’s personal computer of violent Hezbollah military operations in Lebanon.*
In 2001, Paraguay indicted Barakat on charges of association, abetment of crime, and tax evasion, and an international warrant was issued for his arrest. In response, Barakat fled the TBA that October.* However, he was arrested by Brazilian authorities in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, on June 22, 2002, and extradited to Paraguay that December, where he served a six and a half-year prison sentence.*
Barakat was designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the U.S. Department of the Treasury on June 10, 2004. Two of his businesses, Casa Apollo and Barakat Import Export Ltda., were also designated at the time for their involvement in generating support for Hezbollah.*
Barakat was released from Paraguayan custody in 2009, though Paraguay reportedly lost track of his whereabouts since.* According to the Brazilian Federal Police, Barakat continued to operate on behalf of Hezbollah in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. Argentine police accused him of money laundering at a casino in the Argentine city of Puerto Iguazu. In August 2018, Brazil’s supreme court authorized Barakat’s arrest after Paraguay issued an arrest warrant. On September 21, 2018, Brazilian police announced they had arrested Barakat in Foz do Iguaco, Brazil, near the border with Paraguay and Argentina. It remains unclear whether or to where he may be extradited.