WASHINGTON: U.S. authorities arrested an alleged Hezbollah financier Friday on charges of violating U.S. terror-related sanctions, after he was apparently deported to the United States from Morocco.
Kassem Tajeddine was formally charged in U.S. federal court in Washington nearly eight years after the United States named him a "specially designated global terrorist" for allegedly proving tens of millions of dollars to Hezbollah.
He was charged with multiple counts of violating U.S. terrorism sanctions regulations as well as money laundering.
According to multiple media reports, Tajeddine was arrested on arrival in Casablanca on March 12 on a request by U.S. authorities.
He arrived in the United States early Friday, but the Justice Department would not confirm that he had been handed over to the United States by Morocco.
Tajeddine , 62, pleaded innocent to the charges, according to a Justice Department statement.
A commodities trader across the Middle East and Africa, Tajeddine 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 Hezbollah.
"Because of his support for Hezbollah ... the U.S. government imposed sanctions on Kassem Tajeddine in 2009 that barred him from doing business with U.S. individuals and companies," Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said in a statement.
But the charges unveiled Friday did not accuse him of any recent provision of financial support to Hezbollah.
Instead, he was accused of restructuring his business organization after the 2009 designation in order to evade the sanctions and continue doing business with U.S. companies.
That included buying commodities from U.S. exporters and making wire transfers payments for them worth a total of $27 million.
The U.S. firms involved in those transactions were unaware they were involved with him, the charges said.
Writing about Tajeddine Thursday, Hanin Ghaddar and Sarah Feuer of the Washington Institute think tank said Tajeddine remained an important backer of Hezbollah.
"In addition to the revenues he secured for Hezbollah, 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 counter-terrorism partner in recent years."