WASHINGTON – US authorities have charged a long-wanted alleged Hizbollah financier on charges of violating US terror-related sanctions after he was captured in Morocco.
Kassim Tajideen appeared in a US federal court in Washington on Friday nearly eight years after the United States named him a “specially designated global terrorist” for allegedly providing tens of millions of dollars to the movement.
He was charged with multiple counts of violating US terrorism sanctions regulations as well as money laundering.
Tajideen was arrested on arrival in Casablanca on March 12 on a request by US authorities.
He arrived in the United States early on Friday, but the justice department would not confirm that he had been handed over to the United States by Morocco.
Tajideen, 62, pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to a justice department statement.
A commodities trader across the Middle East and Africa, Tajideen was given the terror finance designation in May 2009, which carries sanctions that largely locked him out of global financial networks.
The designation named him an “important financial contributor” to Hizbollah.
“Because of his support for Hizbollah, a major international terrorist group, the US government imposed sanctions on Kassim Tajideen in 2009 that barred him from doing business with US individuals and companies,” said Kenneth Blanco, acting assistant attorney general.
But the charges unveiled on Friday did not accuse him of any recent provision of financial support to Hizbollah.
Instead, he was accused of restructuring his business organisation after the 2009 designation in order to evade the sanctions and continue doing business with US companies.
That included buying commodities from US exporters and making wire transfer payments for them worth a total of $27 million (Dh99.2m).
The US firms involved in those transactions were unaware they were involved with him, the charges said.
Writing about Tajideen on Thursday, Hanin Ghaddar and Sarah Feuer of the Washington Institute think tank said he remained an important backer of Hizbollah.
“In addition to the revenues he secured for Hizbollah, his company Tajco has been involved in a number of residential projects located in strategic areas of Lebanon,” they said.
Ghaddar and Feuer 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.”
Meanwhile, a Lebanese university said on Friday it will pay $700,000 to settle a US lawsuit over allegations it provided “material support” to entities linked to Hizbollah.
The lawsuit accused the American University of Beirut of violating the terms of grants it received from the US Agency for International Development (USAid).
The US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan announced the deal on Thursday, saying AUB would be required to pay the US government and revise its internal policies to ensure future compliance with US law.
“For years, the American University of Beirut accepted grant money from USAid, but failed to take reasonable steps to ensure against providing material support to entities on the Treasury Department’s prohibited list,” said acting Manhattan US attorney Joon H Kim.
“With today’s settlement, the University is being made to pay a financial penalty for its conduct, and importantly, it has admitted to its conduct and agreed to put proper precautions in place to ensure that it does not happen again.”
The civil lawsuit charged that AUB violated US law by providing media training between 2007-2009 to representatives of two media outlets – Al Nour Radio and Al Manar television – under US sanctions for their ties to Hezbollah.
It also accused AUB of listing the Hizbollah-linked Jihad Al Binaa, also under US sanctions, on the university’s NGO database.