A Lebanese businessman accused of helping finance Hezbollah pleaded guilty Thursday (Dec. 6) to committing roughly billion in unlawful transactions since 2009 in a deal with federal prosecutors that calls for five years in prison and a forfeiture of million, WP reported.
Kassim Tajideen, 63, is a Lebanese Belgian citizen who headed a multibillion-dollar commodities shipping empire from Beirut. He was arrested and charged in March 2017 with evading US government sanctions imposed after he was added in 2009 to a Treasury Department list targeting supporters of the Iran-backed terrorist organization.
In federal court in Washington, Tajideen pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He has been held since he was arrested in Morocco in March 2017 at Casablanca airport while traveling on business from Guinea to Beirut.
His plea is contingent on court approval.
The rest of an 11-count indictment against him was dismissed, including conspiracy and fraud charges related to alleged violations of Treasury sanctions that banned Tajideen from dealings with US businesses.
US authorities called his guilty plea a victory in efforts to increase financial pressure against Hezbollah, which has been a US-designated terrorist organization since 1997 and has fought in support of Bashar Assad and with armed insurgents against US forces in Iraq.
Tajideen was involved in a family business that has dominated poultry and rice markets, amassed real estate, and was reportedly active in construction and the diamond trade in Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and western Africa, according to the Wall Street Journal. Tajideen settled in Sierra Leone with his family in 1976, the Journal reported.
Tajideen has denied financing Hezbollah and supporting terrorism or political violence. He said he had been providing information to the Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control seeking to undo what he called his meritless placement on the sanctions list.
Prosecutors also agreed not to prosecute his wife and four children.
Tajideen admitted in the plea agreement to engaging in up to billion in transactions cleared through the US financial system that were barred under sanctions laws and wiring at least million to unwitting US vendors for what Assistant US Attorney Thomas Gillice has said were purchases of poultry and grains and an order for small safes from a California company.
The United States accused Tajideen of concealing his activities when he had claimed to be in compliance with sanction controls in representations he made to Treasury authorities in July 2010, December 2012 and April 2014.