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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Hezbollah financier pleads guilty to violating US sanctions

Justice Department says Kassim Tajideen and co-conspirators moved as much as $1bn through US financial system

Supporters of Hezbollah listen to a speech by the group's leader Hassan Nasrallah. AP Photo
Supporters of Hezbollah listen to a speech by the group's leader Hassan Nasrallah. AP Photo

A Lebanese businessman sanctioned by the US Treasury for being an important financial supporter of Hezbollah has pleaded guilty to charges associated with evading US sanctions.

Kassim Tajideen, 63, pleaded guilty to conspiring with at least five other people to conduct more than $50 million (Dh183m) in transactions with US businesses in violation of the sanctions imposed on him, the US Justice Department said.

If his plea agreement is approved by the district court in Washington, Tajideen would serve five years in prison and pay a $50m criminal forfeiture in advance of his sentencing, the department said.

"The Department of Justice has put a target on Hezbollah," acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker said in announcing the plea agreement. "We are going to keep targeting Hezbollah and other terrorist groups and their supporters, and we are going to keep winning."

Tajideen was listed as a "specially designated global terrorist" by the US Treasury in May 2009 because of his financial assistance to Hezbollah, designated a foreign terrorist organisation by the State Department.

Under the Treasury designation, Tajideen was prohibited from being involved in or benefiting from transactions involving US citizens or companies without a special license from the Treasury.

Tajideen, who ran a multibillion global business empire that traded commodities in the Middle East and Africa, was arrested on March 12, 2017, in Morocco on an international arrest warrant and extradited to the United States.

In addition to circumventing the sanctions to conduct $50m in business with US companies, Tajideen and his co-conspirators engaged in transactions outside the United States that resulted in the transmission of as much as $1 billion through the US financial system, the department said.

"This guilty plea demonstrates our commitment to vigorously investigate and prosecute violations of US economic sanctions," US Attorney Jessie Liu said.

The Justice Department said Tajideen’s case falls under Drug Enforcement Agency’s Project Cassandra which "targets Hezbollah’s global criminal support network - dubbed by the DEA as the Business Affairs Component (BAC) - that operates as a logistics, procurement and financing arm for Hezbollah".

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