Cigarette smuggling in New York has history of terrorism ties

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NEW YORK (PIX11) —  PIX11 News reported more than eight years ago about links between cigarette smuggling and the financing of terrorism.

In 2004, we secured undercover surveillance tape of New York State agents monitoring a warehouse operation between Northern Virginia and New York City.  The suspects — later convicted — used to make weekly trips from the Virginia warehouse, carrying 50,000 cartons in their rental trucks.  At the time, they could buy a carton of cigarettes in Virginia for $20, instead of the $75 it then cost in New York.  The smugglers cleared $2 million in profits with every load.

The first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 was said to be partially financed by cigarette smuggling.  One of the convicted bombers, New Jersey-educated chemical engineer Nidal Ayyad, was linked to a smuggling scheme in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

The young men arrested in the Lackawanna 6 case  in upstate New York — convicted of training in Al Qaeda terror camps overseas — were said to have had their trips financed by a cigarette smuggler from Buffalo.

One of the first cases prosecuted in the United States linking cigarette smuggling to terrorism involved two brothers in North Carolina, who were convicted of funneling millions of dollars to Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based terror group.

In the latest smuggling case announced Thursday here in New York City, some of the 16 Palestinian-born men accused in the conspiracy were said to have ties to Hamas, the terror group that runs the Gaza Strip.  One of them was a big supporter of  Omar Abdel Rahman — a blind Egyptian sheik doing life in prison — convicted of conspiring to blow up New York City landmarks in the early 1990’s.

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