Belize

Hezbollah's Rafic Labboun in Belize: Is the Justice of the Peace Involved?

By Shane D. Williams
 
From left, Rafic Labboun (Allaboun), Yasser Safa and George Abdallah Elders
 
Yasser Safa is one of two naturalized Belizean men who were captured in Mexico along with U.S. fugitive, Rafic Mohammad Labboun Allaboun on Saturday, September 8th, after a successful operation by the National Migration Institute (INM) and the State Police. According to reports, almost a dozen law enforcement vehicles were seen parked in front of Labboun’s Mexican home in the Francisco Montejo area of Merida. The officers breached the premises with extremely high powered rifles. Arrested along with Labboun, and naturalized Belizeans, Safa was George Abdalah Elders.
 
Rafic Mohammad Labboun is a U.S. citizen of Lebanese citizen,  who has first moved to the States almost 30 years ago. He was convicted of credit card fraud and after serving time in prison, he was released on parole. However, he violated the terms of that parole when he left the United States.  Labboun was deported to the U.S. a few hours after his arrest, Sunday very early in the morning, because there was a warrant out for his arrest in Houston, Texas. On Monday, he appeared before a judge in Texas for violating his parole and was returned to California for imprisonment. 
 
Delroy Cuthkelvin
Delroy Cuthkelvin

According to officials, Rafic Labboun identified himself at the time of the arrest using a Belizean passport with the name William Dyck. The Belize Police Department is currently engaged in an investigation to determine exactly how it is that he got the passport. The Guardian spoke to the Senior Public Relations Officer in the ministry of National Security, Delroy Cuthkelvin, on Wednesday, September 13th. He explained that the matter has been turned over to the Criminal Investigation Branch. So far, they have determined that William Dyck was born in Shipyard in Orange Walk on February 8th, 1976. The birth registration was confirmed by the Vital Statistics Unit. Police visited the listed address for Dyck and, according to Cuthkelvin, they spoke to a woman, who said that she does remember William Dyck. The woman identified herself as Dyck’s sister and informed the officers that William Dyck died two months after birth in 1976. Both of their parents have since died as well. Police then visited the Vital Statistics Unit but could not find documentation of the baby’s death. They then focused the investigation on the application and issuance of the identification documents. Labboun was also found with a Belizean driver’s license.  

 
Police investigation has revealed that a copy of William Dyck’s birth certificate was issued on August 29th of this year. Anyone can request a person’s birth certificate. However, their name must appear on the application form. The application form for Dyck’s birth certificate has not been found at the Vital Statistics Unit since police started their investigation. Therefore, it is not known who applied for the document. Police investigation has also revealed that, on the same day the birth certificate was issued, a passport application was filed. The applicant paid $100 for express service and received the passport the following day, on August 30th. The driver’s license that Rafic Labboun had was issued by the Belmopan City Council. The license identification number is 02592 and the serial number is 12751. Subsequent checks at the Belmopan City Hall revealed that the license identification number already belonged to another Belmopan resident. A further check showed that Belmopan licenses have not even reached the 12000 series as yet; therefore, 12751 could not have been issued. As part of police’s investigation into the validity of the passport, police have spoken to Juliana Arana who was the Justice of the Peace that signed on the passport application. In a striking bout of coincidence, Juliana Arana’s house was burnt on Saturday morning a little after 4 a.m. She was not at home at the time, she was in Barranco attending a family funeral. Just like the case with the Vital Statistics Unit, the Immigration Department is experiencing difficulties tracking down the passport application form. Cuthkelvin says that if it is not a culture of negligence, it is a practice of poor filing techniques because old application forms at both departments seem extremely hard to locate. The application forms would answer very important questions like who applied for the documents; who accepted the application form; who issued the document and who received the document. Cuthkelvin says that police have confirmed that Labboun visited the immigration office himself to apply for and receive his passport. How he got into the country in the first place is another question still unanswered.
 
As for Safa and Elders, both Lebanese immigrants and naturalized Belizeans, they both entered Mexico legally and no charges are expected to be filed against them or their family. However, according to reports, they are believed to be operatives of a Hezbollah cell stationed in Mexico and Central America. Sources say that intelligence agencies from the United States were tracking the group for a while. It is believed that they were participating in financing activities in an attempt to bail out incarcerated Hezbollah members jailed in the United States. Safa is no stranger to Belize police. He's been known in Belize for selling a bunch of stolen SUVs from Guatemala and passing off multiple bounce cheques. In February of 2007, Yasser Safa was busted in Panama with 3 kilos of cocaine. According to a report by 7 News on February 5th, 2007, Safa had also been busted in Mexico on a human trafficking charge, but was traded back into Belize on a prisoner exchange programme. Despite all allegations and charges against Safa, he seems to have a gift for escaping prolonged jail time. Elders worked in Belize as a mechanic on Coney Drive. 
 
This article was first published at Guardian.bz in Belize.
 
Rafic Labboun is an imam with Shia Association of Bay Area (Saba Islamic Center of San Jose, CA).
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