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Hizballah Funny Money?

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James Taranto notes possible evidence of large scale Hizballah counterfeiting in Lebanon, completely missed by NBC News even though they filmed it. (Hat tip: ed.)

A reader noticed something curious in a video from last night’s “NBC Nightly News.” Richard Engel, the network’s Beirut bureau chief, is reporting from southern Lebanon, and at 1:07 in the video, as he’s saying, “In Sidon, we found part of the financial district flattened,” you briefly see an image of what look like uncut sheets of U.S. hundred-dollar bills.

Now, it’s possible to buy uncut sheets from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, at premiums ranging from 12.5% to 275% over face value—but apparently only in denominations of up to $50. Anyhow, somehow we doubt these were collectibles.

A Treasury Department press release dated June 10, 2004, reports that Hezbollah has been involved in counterfeiting American money:

One of the most prominent and influential members of the Hizballah terrorist organization, along with two of his companies, was designated by the Treasury Department today under Executive Order 13224. Assad Ahmad Barakat has close ties with Hizballah leadership and has worked closely with numerous Islamic extremists and suspected Hizballah associates in South America’s tri-border area (TBA), made up of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina… .

Barakat has also been involved in a counterfeiting ring that distributes fake U.S. dollars and generates cash to fund Hizballah operations. As of early 2001, Barakat was one of two individuals reportedly in charge of distribution and sale of the counterfeit currency in the TBA.

Was this funny money in Engel’s report from Sidon? We don’t know, but it’d be a good question for him to investigate.

I tracked down the video of this report, and it does show stacks of uncut 100 dollar bills in big sheets, amid the rubble of the Sidon financial district:

20060724NBCLebanonBank.flv

UPDATE at 7/25/06 5:32:32 pm:

A reader emailed to suggest that these could be photocopies of bills, made to record the serial numbers. Hard to tell with this small low-resolution image; but nonetheless, Hizballah counterfeiting is very real.

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