James Shasha – a distinguished philanthrope or a terrorist financier?
James Shasha, an Iraqi immigrant Jew from Argentina, is the owner of various companies and businesses, including hotels and casinos (partly owned by his daughter Leslie Joy Shasha). One company registered in Argentina and owned and managed by Shasha, HCI SA, owns and operates several hotels and casinos. Two of those, Iguazu Grand Hotel Resort & Spa and Panoramic Grand Hotel, are located in the tri-border (Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil) area town of Puerto Iguazo.
According to information received from local law enforcement officers, who were involved in an investigation on a widespread terror-financing and money laundering network related to Hizballah. Since 2015, Shasha’s casinos in the tri-border area played a pivotal part in this network.
The main suspects of this investigation were two Hizballah operatives in Latin America, Hassan Ali Barakat and his brother, Hussein Ali Barakat. The brothers, part of the Al-Barakat clan were both arrested for smuggling cash from Shasha’s casinos across the border to Paraguay. For two years, the al-Barakat brothers have made over 600 border crossings smuggling cash using Shasha’s casinos in order to achieve their task to supply money for Hizballah.
What is particularly troubling and puzzling is the fact that even though Shasha’s casinos were part of a terror-financing money laundering scam meant to fund Hizballah, Shasha himself was not investigated. In fact, not only was he not questioned, he continues to act in his capacity as a major donor to various cultural institutes in Israel, as well as serve as a board member in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the National Museum of Israel.
In a related matter, based on information received from local officials involved in the investigation and preferred to remain anonymous, investigation efforts were undermined by senior local officials, including politicians and prosecutors, who were bribed to halt the investigation into the involvement of various individuals as well as free others suspected as being involved. This may explain why, so far, the involvement of both Shasha and his daughter was not investigated.