Le­banese pleads guilty to evad­ing U.S. sanc­tions

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON -

WASH­ING­TON: A Le­banese busi­ness­man sanc­tioned by the U.S. Trea­sury for al­legedly be­ing an im­por­tant fi­nan­cial sup­porter of Hezbol­lah Thurs­day pleaded guilty to charges as­so­ci­ated with evad­ing U.S. sanc­tions im­posed on him, the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment said.

Kas­sim Ta­jideen, 63, pleaded guilty to con­spir­ing with at least five other peo­ple to con­duct more than $50 mil­lion in trans­ac­tions with U.S. busi­nesses in vi­o­la­tion of the sanc­tions im­posed on him, the depart­ment said in a state­ment.

If his plea agree­ment is ap­proved by the U.S. Dis­trict Court in Wash­ing­ton, Ta­jideen would serve five years in prison and pay a $50 mil­lion 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 U.S. Trea­sury in May 2009 be­cause of his al­leged fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to Hezbol­lah, des­ig­nated a for­eign ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion by the U.S. State Depart­ment.

Un­der the Trea­sury des­ig­na­tion, Ta­jideen was pro­hib­ited from be­ing in­volved in or ben­e­fit­ing from trans­ac­tions in­volv­ing U.S. 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.

At the time, his fam­ily’s lawyer, Chi­bli Mal­lat, re­leased a state­ment deny­ing the charges against him.

“Charges in the United States, Morocco or else­where aris­ing from al­le­ga­tions that Mr. Ta­jideen has a con­nec­tion to ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties are false,” the state­ment said.

“Since 2009, [Ta­jideen] and his coun­sel have been ac­tively en­gaged in an OFAC delist­ing [pro­ce­dure] to prove his in­no­cence. In do­ing so, Mr. Ta­jideen agreed to an un­prece­dented, com­pre­hen­sive foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion of his per­sonal and busi­ness deal­ings by a lead­ing global ac­count­ing firm, which found no ev­i­dence to sup­port OFAC’s des­ig­na­tion,” the state­ment said.

Nonethe­less, charges were brought al­leg­ing that Ta­jideen had at­tempted to evade U.S. sanc­tions.

Be­sides cir­cum­vent­ing the sanc­tions to con­duct $50 mil­lion in busi­ness with U.S. firms, Ta­jideen and his co-con­spir­a­tors en­gaged in trans­ac­tions out­side the U.S. that re­sulted in the trans­mis­sion of as much as $1 bil­lion through the U.S. fi­nan­cial sys­tem, the depart­ment said.

While the charges were for evad­ing sanc­tions, not for fi­nanc­ing Hezbol­lah, the Jus­tice Depart­ment said Ta­jideen’s case falls un­der the Drug En­force­ment Agency’s Pro­ject Cas­san­dra, which “tar­gets Hezbol­lah’s global crim­i­nal sup­port net­work ... that op­er­ates as a lo­gis­tics, pro­cure­ment and fi­nanc­ing arm for Hezbol­lah.”–

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