Although Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has always said that Hezbollah’s financial sources are entirely Iranian, this is not true because the party, like any extremist terrorist organization, relies, in addition to Iranian support, on several other internal and external sources, since Hezbollah dominates many economic institutions in Lebanon and has complex and suspicious external funding sources, and Iran is not only its source of funding!
Hezbollah and all that it controls within Lebanon is just a province of the Islamic Republic and Hassan Nasrallah cannot be considered more than a soldier of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, so he receives funding from Iran and from the very same sources of the Revolutionary Guard, which are mostly illegal and illegitimate.
According to international reports, Hezbollah receives from Iran between one to two billion dollars in cash annually, the figures that recently were made public to the Iranian peoples who took to the street to denounce wasting Iranian funds and launched slogans such as no for Gaza nor Lebanon, my soul for Iran. These funds are transported by land from Iran through Iraq and Syria to reach Lebanon. There have been reports of much higher numbers being sent by Iran to Hezbollah for a complete ideological and demographic change in Lebanon. For example, well-informed sources reported that Iran sent by order of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in 2013, five billion dollars, where 3 billion of which were allocated for cultural mobilization as well as wages and imbursements for cultural and media personalities from all Lebanese and Arab sects, while the other 2 billion was used to buy lands in the area adjacent to the commercial center in Beirut.
Hezbollah also earns huge sums of money from drug trafficking and smuggling. Latin America and Africa are the most important areas of the party’s activities, especially through Venezuela, which has close ties to Iran. Based on this relationship, Hezbollah leaders went to the capital Caracas and established relations with drug cartels and gangs of smuggling and illegal trade.
Hezbollah is estimated to earn from these illegal businesses between two and three billion dollars a year, which then distributed to several party leaders like what the state does to its budget. Part of this is spent on financing a number of networks and gangs that assist the party in these trades.
In several European countries, a group affiliated with Hezbollah is laundering money of tens of millions of euros from the drug trade, to be sent later to Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon. This prompted some European countries and the United States to conduct a number of investigations into Hezbollah’s drug trade and money laundering.
Hezbollah works as a link between prohibited trade such as drug trafficking and money laundering and the financing of terrorism. To finance its terrorist activities, it relies on the money it receives from smuggling and drug trafficking. It has gangs and organizations specializing in these trades, but it separates the activities of these organizations from its terrorist activities to keep it all in secret.
With the outset of the so-called “Arab Spring Revolutions,” Hezbollah’s activities in the region increased, and was authorized by Iran to intervene in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, which in turn increased the party’s need for funds. For this, Iran created a complex network to finance terrorism by looting oil resources and selling them on the black market, bank looting, drug trafficking, human trafficking and looting funds and properties of the public and opposition and then distributing these funds on more than one terrorist organization and group that affiliates with Iran through a complex network.
The donations of Hezbollah members at home and abroad, especially the merchants and businessmen, are one of the most important sources of party funding. It is remarkable that those merchants are not limited to the Asian countries, but also to the African and Latin continents. Hezbollah also receives donations from millions of its supporters in Europe, which did not impose adequate sanctions on the party yet. According to a report published by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Hezbollah militia has taken advantage of the banking system in Lebanon and carried out money laundering operations, especially by the Lebanese Canadian Bank.
Currently, reports indicate that the party is in financial straits due to the economic and financial crises Iran is experiencing, the largest financier of the party, because of the US sanctions on Tehran, as well as the policies that the European countries and America have started to adopt against Hezbollah’s activities. This created discontent among the leaders of the party which turned recently into growing differences on the future of the party, which linked its fate with the Iranian regime and gave up its Arabism and patriotism.
Al Mezmaah Studies & Research Centre
January 28, 2019