On Wednesday, he briefly spoke to the camera at his home in Montreal, as his black screen switched to a green background with yellow lettering. Behind him stood a newspaper, with the word “Kuwait” written across the front.
Jerome Hernani, the head of FabSaving, and his company’s headquarters in Ottawa. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock
A long way from the family business Hernani grew up in, FabSaving Inc. was bought and acquired more than a decade ago by a Lebanon-based firm. At the time, the video – called Lebanon-Kuwait – was hidden from the public eye, similar to the protected intranet video servers Hernani had once built that were used to publish underground user-submitted videos of crimes against humanity.
In a coup that felt remarkably similar to a conspiracy theory video that appeared in September 2017, FabSaving has come under public scrutiny for a “ludicrous” cover story: the company’s financial records show that FabSaving has received payments from companies whose vessels were almost certainly used to ship shells used by ISIS, as part of their battle against the Kurds.
Hernani spoke from his home in Montreal, saying that he was out of the country and unable to appear in person.
Yahya Abdullah, who is also known as Abu Mujahid al-Yemeni, appears in a video that appeared under a pseudonym on Breitbart News in September 2017. Photograph: Breitbart News
The offshore shell company where Hernani is the chairman is FabSaving Holdings Inc, a South Korean-owned entity that has been used to profit from a torrent of illegal weapons shipments, including illegal shipments to Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Among those weapons are shells with a 30-mm high explosive and explosive foam shells, which are intended for use on other warplanes or tanks, the Guardian has learned.
Hernani was responsible for the secure systems that helped distribute inside the secret ID system of thousands of screens in public buildings in Lebanon, Iran, Palestine and Saudi Arabia – systems that detected and prevented untraceable attacks.
The public is shown a sharp left, with Hernani’s face turning blue at the corner; the GIF is named “Israel was going to destroy Lebanon”.
The humungous smile on Hernani’s face, at the start of the film, can easily be read as he sees himself and others wearing uniforms, under different guises. Tensions between Israel and Lebanon, as well as the countries’ partisan conflicts, left Lebanon in chaos. The country, a hotbed of Muslim Brotherhood activity, was a sprawling host to Israel’s largest military operations since 1948.
In Lebanon, around 5,000 government employees earn more than $1,000 a month. The authorities receive $11bn a year in direct US aid. Lebanese companies are registered, taxed and regulated under strict US laws, based in part on the 1976 Lebanon Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. That means Lebanese companies – or their American subsidiaries – can be liable for US-backed sanctions.
So the US has long been able to funnel illicit weapons throughout Lebanon. Military officials have used weapons – including specialized ballistic artillery shells, rocket-propelled grenades and rocket launchers – to target Hezbollah supporters in suburbs of Beirut and along the front lines of Syria.
There is no conclusive evidence of how the Syrian missiles wound up in Lebanon. According to Major Thomas Brinkley, director of weapons flows research at the Institute for the Study of War, some more recent cases have traced the weapons directly to Hezbollah’s covert suppliers in Iran and Hezbollah. One Hezbollah shell company has been accused of shipping nine million white special hull Shahid No 4S shells, which are intended for use on other Iranian weapons platforms. Some have been disguised as fuel tanks.
In 2006, Hernani went on a press tour to promote his systems. Photograph: Frederic Tomesco
In Syria, missiles laid a trail of craters throughout Lebanon; sniper bullets hit cars and hit soldiers at checkpoints. In 2011, claims surfaced about homemade rockets that Hernani had previously delivered