Mike Hornbrook, a CBC journalist on the ground in Lebanon, has popped in here at Snapped Shot, and informs us (unofficiallyâthis is not a statement endorsed by the CBC) from on the ground in Lebanon, that there are no indications that Hezbullah is handing out counterfeit money:
With all respect to bloggers who sometimes discover things missed by mainstream media, this story about Hezbollah handing out counterfeit $100 bills is completely insane!UPDATE 12:03 EST: Sticky Notes informs us
Unlike any of them, I am on the ground in Beirut reporting for CBC News and have checked it out. We could not find a single person complaining about phony money. Furthermore, the very idea shows a profound ignorance of Lebanon and Hezbollah. Lebanon is a major banking center, every bank has counterfeit scanners and other tools for detecting counterfeits. Not just the banks either, every money-changer and supermarket also has a scanner next to the cash register. From personal experience I can tell you they check out $100 USD bills very very carefully, phonies would be detected in an instant. This would bring outraged complaints from people in desperate circumstances that would be a huge embarassment to Hezbollah. No such scandal has emerged because the phony money story is itself phony. The people circulating the story are doing it for their own reasons, but as a journalist I can tell you they are absolutely, totally wrong.
via e-mail that Myrtus notes that Hezbullah doesn't seem to be getting this cash from banks
. This might be significant, or it might notâI can easily imagine private Saudi-owned jets ferrying suitcases full of cash around the Middle East. Plus, as Myrtus notes, Hezbullah is not designated a terrorist organization by Europe, so you know Euro-dollars are flowing there pretty freely. Sorry, SN, but I don't see anything in here that would support the counterfeiting story...
(In a brief update shortly thereafter, Sticky Notes directed us to the actual article
, which says that, "[t]he money is widely believed to have come from Iran, the main backer of the group, but Salameh said Hizbollah's action did not violate Lebanon's laws, adding that the central bank was ready to answer any international inquiries.")UPDATE 13:06 EST:
Just noticed Sticky Notes' excellent article on Korean supernotes
. Food for thought.
Keep on reading the full article for my take on the story, if it does turn out that these are real bills.UPDATE 14:11 EST:
Got a followup e-mail from Mike. He wants to make sure we're aware that he's not speaking officially for the CBC, so let me duly note that up front.
He also says that he was
investigating the story after reading about it in David Frum's article
. Check out the full article
for details.UPDATE 1-SEP-2006 15:21 EST: Sticky Notes has continued
to do an excellent job tracking "supernotes" and the Axis of Evil. Here's a good Lebanese blog
that's tracking the progress of this story, with good background on Hezbullah's activities. To date, nobody but Allahpundit has really acknowledged
our information from Mike Hornbrook. I'll do my best to follow up with Mike on everyone's questions in the mean time.As one of "the bloggers" circulating this story, I've done my best to couch everything in terms of this being an intriguing possibility, and may have made some emotional comments towards the implications of it being true, but have otherwise not found any
conclusive evidence to support my claims.
I can't make it clear enough: The facts of the matter are in no way
clear on whether or not the bills are counterfeit, from sitting at a desk here in Virginia. If you look back at my original thread
on the topic, you'll note that each and every one
of my "proofs" of the money being counterfeit, based on the wire photo evidence, were quickly and summarily dismissed.
Well, in light of the evidence, it's pretty clear that I might have another "Foiled Again!" on the way. I really am on a roll this week!
So where does that leave us? Well, if the "major banking center(s)" in Lebanon are accepting these hundred-dollar bills, then there's little doubt that the money is, in fact, quite real. (Or, at the least, that it's too good a counterfeit to be detectedânot to stoke the flames of controversy, though!) With that in mind, the debate now needs to move in the direction of identifying the source of Hezbullah's fortune
Iran? We've heard repeatedly that they are fully supportive of Hezbullah, and have been sending cash to Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia? No word on any connection there, but it wouldn't surprise me to see a wealthy cousin of the Royal Family pouring money into an anti-Israeli organization.
International Charities? Well, the U.S. Treasury has frozen the funds of one of 'em, so that's always an option.
As always, I'm interested in hearing what you, the Reader, think of these new developments. And I'm eagerly awaiting further input from Mike, who's certainly a valuable resource I haven't had in the past: A source on the ground.
I'll keep you posted as this new twist in the story develops!UPDATE 11:50 EST:
Mike Hornbrook, in the news:UPDATE 14:15 EST:
Mike has written us back. Here're some of the most relevant parts of his e-mail:
I decided to check out the counterfeit story after one of my editors forwarded a column by David Frum (fmr Bush speechwriter who coined the phrase "axis of evil"). Frum keyed on your speculation and that of other bloggers to suggest reporters were being suckered by Hezbollah's 'counterfeit' generosity. I respect Frum and read his columns whenever I see them, but knew he was way off the mark this time. As I mentioned earlier, such a fraud would be detected instantly in a place like Beirut and it would discredit Hezbollah. It's not their style.
Now, where does the money come from? I haven't poked around extensively on this but a professor of banking in Beirut, with good contacts in the industry, told me there's no doubt it comes from Iran. With oil at $70/barrel, the mullahs are swimming in cash and can afford to fund a guerrilla war in another country.
How does it get in? Some of it arrives the same way the weapons doâacross the Syrian border in suitcases stuffed with $100 bills. But there are other, murkier, ways to get money to Hezbollah. I've been told the Iranian Saradar Bank may have a hand in it (surprise!). Also, money can be transferred from abroad to companies that are owned by Hezbollah or their supporters. Lebanon has strict bank confidentiality rulesâstricter than the Swiss, I'm toldâso pinning down this stuff is very difficult if not impossible. With Lebanon's dysfunctional political culture even the US government wouldn't get much help pressuring the banks to open their books.
Pls don't take what I've said as definitive. I haven't done enough research to write a story on this. I'm passing along the thrust of conversations I've had with two locals who know a few a few things about what goes on in Lebanon.
Even with the disclaimer, this is quite a bit of good information to go on. It seems that I may have guessed correctly when I speculated that they're shipping cash across the border in suitcases, though the additional information Mike provides us on Lebanon's banking industry certainly implies that more complex transactions might also be taking place here. Once again, my sincerest thanks to Mike for sharing these insights with us!
For those of you new to the story, here's a recap of my stories leading up to this one. Other blogs are linked within, so be sure to check out what everyone else is saying:Cash-bollahâCharity via Counterfeit?A sudden lack of context
(The story that started it all!)The Salvation Army (of Terrorists)The latest on the Funny Money ScandalMore Money ShotsMike Hornbrook from the CBC: The Cash Is Real! NEW 31-AUG-2006
Israel/Lebanon War 2006