Seventeen people were arrested in Curacao for alleged involvement in a drug trafficking ring with connections to Hezbollah, police in the Dutch Caribbean island said today.
The suspects detained yesterday include four people from Lebanon and others from Curacao, Cuba, Venezuela and Colombia, police chief Carlos Casseres said at a news conference.
Some of the proceeds, funneled through informal Middle Eastern banks, went toward supporting groups linked to the militant Hezbollah organization in Lebanon, according to Casseres. The smuggling ring also allegedly forwarded requests from Lebanon for arms to be shipped from South America.
"We have been able to establish that this group has relations with international criminal organizations that have connections with the Hezbollah," prosecutor Ludmila Vicento said.
Island officials said the US and the Netherlands are helping them to investigate the alleged Hezbollah connection.
Two shipments of cocaine totaling 2,000 kilograms (4,400 pounds) have been seized from the ring in Curacao since the beginning of last year. The traffickers used cargo ships and speed boats to import the drugs from Colombia and Venezuela for shipment to Africa and beyond to Europe, according to Curacao authorities.
Several countries including the United States participated in the investigation leading to the arrests.
Authorities with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the US consulate in Curacao said they could not immediately comment on the case.