By Reza Kahlili
A report from the Green Experts of Iran, an opposition group with sources inside the Islamic republic, has provided details of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ connections to drug trafficking, money laundering and counterfeiting. The report confirms an interconnected web of criminal enterprises, run by the Guards and often facilitated by Iranian diplomatic consulates, intended to fund the Iranian military’s worldwide terror operation.
The Revolutionary Guards’ Mafia-like network in Europe has grown steadily since Iran’s 1979 revolution.
Last year the U.S. government designated Iran as a “Primary Money-Laundering Concern,” and imposed new sanctions on Iran’s energy sector.
And on Wednesday the U.S. government named Gen. Gholamreza Baghbani, a general in Iran’s elite Quds force — a branch of the Guards — as a narcotics “kingpin,” citing his career of facilitating heroin trafficking from Afghanistan into Iran.
The Green Experts of Iran report, written in Farsi, reveals a grand project by the Guards called “Time for the Collapse.” The Guards, according to this plan, intend to destabilize the West through terror, drugs and money laundering.
News media have widely reported that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in his power struggle with those loyal to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has talked of many secret ports across Iran that are used by the Guards for illegal smuggling.
About 17 months ago, the report states, members of a drug gang were arrested in Baku, Azerbaijan. Among them were two Iranians whom Iran’s consulate shielded from prosecution. But other members of the gang were citizens of Azerbaijan, Albania and Tajikistan. They confessed to their connection to the Revolutionary Guards’ drug network.
In connection with that arrest, the Green Experts report explains, modern counterfeiting equipment was confiscated — along with information that the Guards had placed similar counterfeiting operations on the borders of Russia and across East Asia.
That information, the report states, led to more arrests 11 months ago in Macau, an island protectorate of China, resulting in the seizure of high-quality forged U.S. treasury bonds. Those bonds, the report said, were already being easily transacted through regional banks, and arousing no suspicion.
Ultimately, authorities tracked the forged currency to a criminal network in Europe which was distributing large sums of counterfeit dollars and euros, in collaboration with the Guards, since at least July 2011.
Information from arrests in Europe showed that the Guards and the Iranian intelligence apparatus were involved in a major money-laundering scheme that involved the assistance of Iranian consulates.
The Green Experts report states that an organized-crime family in Albania has collaborated with the Guards for years, running a major money-laundering operation that sends fake currency into Europe. The Guards have been successfully recruiting mostly poor Albanians, sending them to Iran for intelligence and military training, and returning them to work for their European network.
Investigations have shown that one center for distribution of phony banknotes is an Iranian-affiliated company in Hong Kong.
The Revolutionary Guards’ illicit activities have expanded throughout Europe, including to England, Germany, France and, in cooperation with Italian Mafiosi, to northern Italy.
Arrests just weeks ago in Zurich, Switzerland also led to confiscation of an improbable $6 trillion in fake U.S. bonds and the arrests of eight individuals in Italy. As part of the investigation that led to those arrests, $2 billion in fake bonds were also seized in Rome.
Those arrested in that law-enforcement operation were widely reported to have been trained in Iran. They were part of the Guards’ smuggling network, and were planning to buy plutonium from Nigerian contacts.
The bonds they were carrying had been transported in 2007 from Hong Kong to Zurich.
On Feb. 21, Azerbaijan officials announced the arrest of a gang with links to the Revolutionary Guards and the militant terrorist Hezbollah group. The gang members, who were involved in drug trafficking, were armed with explosives and intended to commit acts of terrorism against foreign nationals, Azerbaijan said.
According to a respected Iranian opposition website called Balatarin, a company belonging to former Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rafiqdoust transfers drugs in small packages from Iran via boats and airplanes to Albania, Romania and Bulgaria. These packages are then distributed through Western Europe in trucks belonging to Albanian and Romanian companies.
The same report suggests that the Guards’ drug operation nets $20 billion annually.
A former Guards intelligence officer confirmed this in November, saying that the Guards are trying to undermine the West through their links with global crime networks.
While the trafficking of drugs funds terrorist activities, drug cartels also transport arms and explosives and move terror cells’ personnel from place to place. The Guards run this operation out of Venezuela and into Latin America as a means to enter Mexico and from there into the U.S., according to an April 2010 Pentagon report.
The Guards also use Iranian industries under their control to expand their terrorist activities. One example is Iran Khodro Company, the leading Iranian automaker with many branches outside Iran.
In 2011 a shipment of 286 pounds of heroin was intercepted in Nigeria along with 13 containers of arms and ammunition. The heroin was hidden in auto parts destined for the Iran Khodro branch in Senegal, which is operated by the Quds Forces.
Green Experts are an opposition group tied to the Green Movement in Iran that opposes the reign of Khamenei. The movement proposes free elections and the release of Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, Green movement leaders who have been under house arrest since the 2009 uprisings in Iran.
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the author of the award winning book, “A Time to Betray.” He teaches at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy.