A Lebanese businessman was on Friday charged in the US for violating sanctions through his support for Lebanon’s “Hezbollah,” less than two weeks after he was reportedly deported to the United States from Morocco.
Kassim Tajideen, 62, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Washington, D.C., nearly eight years after the United States placed him on a sanction blacklist because of his support for “Hezbollah.”
The 2009 sanctions on Tajideen prohibit US companies from doing business with him or with any companies that are operated for his benefit.
US authorities say Tajideen ran a multi-billion-dollar “global business empire” that traded in commodities across the Middle East and Africa.
The 11-count indictment unsealed Friday charges him with multiple counts of violating the sanctions regulations as well as money laundering. But by restructuring the company and using a complex web of trade names, authorities say Tajideen was able to hide his involvement and continue doing business with US firms.
That included buying commodities from US exporters and making wire transfers payments for them worth a total of $27 million.
The US companies involved in those transactions were unaware they were involved with him, the charges said.
He will be held in jail until a detention hearing next week, the Justice Department said in a statement.
A lawyer for Tajideen, Matt Jones, declined to comment after the court appearance.
Reports said that Tajideen had been arrested on March 12 in the Moroccan city of Casablanca on an international warrant issued by Interpol’s Washington office.
Tajideen’s arrest and indictment followed a two-year investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and assisted by US Customs and Border Protection, the Justice Department said in a statement.
“Tajideen acted as a key source of funds for (Hezbollah’s) global terror network,” Raymond Donovan, a DEA special agent in charge of the Special Operations Division, said in the statement.
Writing about Tajideen on Thursday, Hanin Ghaddar and Sarah Feuer of the Washington Institute think tank said Tajideen remained an important backer of Hezbollah.
They said that although Morocco would not confirm that Washington had asked for his arrest, “such cooperation would be in keeping with Morocco’s emergence as a key counterterrorism partner in recent years.”