Terrorism

Alleged Hezbollah financier extradited to US from Romania: Justice Department

Mohammad Bazzi, deemed a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by Washington in 2018, was arrested by Romanian authorities in February.

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The US successfully extradited an alleged key Hezbollah financier from Romania earlier this week, according to the Justice Department.

Mohammad Bazzi, deemed a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by Washington in 2018, was arrested by Romanian authorities in February.

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He is accused of assisting in, sponsoring, and providing financial, material, and technological support and financial services to Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Bazzi was extradited from Romania to New York on Tuesday, according to a spokesman for the US Attorney’s office in Brooklyn. He was arraigned on the indictment in Brooklyn Federal Court and he entered a plea of not guilty to the charges on Wednesday.

The magistrate judge, Peggy Kuo, ordered him detained pending trial, the spokesman told Al Arabiya English.

Hezbollah was designated a terrorist group by the US in 1997 and is responsible for several terrorist attacks against US servicemembers, government employees, and civilians abroad.

According to the US Justice Department, Bazzi allegedly provided millions of dollars to Hezbollah from his businesses in Belgium, Lebanon, Iraq and West Africa.

In February, the Justice Department unsealed the indictment against Bazzi and another Lebanese citizen, Talal Chahine.

Bazzi and Chahine proposed numerous methods to conceal from the Treasury Department and US law enforcement officials their methods of money laundering. These included looking to a third party in China as well as a fictitious franchising agreement for the rights to operate a Lebanese-based restaurant chain throughout the US.

The extradition of Bazzi comes a week after US prosecutors charged another alleged Hezbollah financier, Nazem Ahmad, with evading US sanctions and selling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of diamonds and artwork.

Ahmad has not been arrested, but one of the men alleged to have worked with him, Sundar Nagarajan, was arrested in the UK last week. British media reported that the US is seeking Nagarajan’s extradition as well.

The US has a history of extraditing wanted individuals accused of helping fund terror groups, especially Hezbollah.

Ghassan Diab, a Lebanese citizen accused of facilitating funds for the group, was charged and identified as a Hezbollah associate in 2016. He was arrested in Cyprus in 2019 and extradited to the United States a year later.

Kassim Tajideen, another alleged Lebanese financier of Hezbollah, was arrested in Morocco in 2017 and extradited to the US. In 2019, he was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to evading sanctions against him. But the Trump administration released and deported him back to Beirut, despite government opposition to a judicial order granting an emergency request for compassionate release.

Read more: US senators urge Biden to voice need for Lebanon president not loyal to Hezbollah

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