Hezbollah Diamond Smugglers Put On U.S. Terrorists List
May 28, 09
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has designated Kassim Tajideen and Abd Al Menhem Qubaysi, two Africa-based supporters of Hezbollah, as terrorists providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. The U.S. has announced the freezing of any assets these Lebanese traders may have under U.S. jurisdiction and is prohibiting Americans from engaging in any transactions with them.
Tajideen is an important financial contributor to Hezbollah who operates a network of businesses in Lebanon and Africa. He has contributed tens of millions of dollars to the terrorist organization and has sent it funds through his brother, a Hezbollah commander in Lebanon. In addition, Tajideen and his brothers run cover companies for Hezbollah in Africa.
In May 2003, following a four month international investigation by Belgium’s Economic Crimes Unit, judicial police raided the Antwerp offices of Soafrimex, arresting Tajideen, the owner of the company, several company officials and freezing the firm’s bank accounts. A few weeks later, the police also arrested his wife Huda Saad. Tajideen was arrested in connection with fraud, money laundering and diamond smuggling.
Soafrimex is a Lebanese-Belgium export company, located on the Van Stralenstraat in Antwerp. Tajideen is not listed in any of the diamond company guides nor does he have any known connections to Antwerp diamond dealers. Nevertheless he and his wife have been accused by the Belgian authorities of ‘large-scale tax fraud, money laundering and trade in diamonds of doubtful origin, to the value of tens of millions of euros’.
Soafrimex exports food stuffs such as sugar and wheat to African countries, including Congo, Sierra Leone and South Africa. Tajideen remained in a Belgian prison for quite a while, before being released on €125,000 bail together with his wife. The Belgian police, according to published reports, found clear evidence of fraud and possible use of conflict diamonds as a means of payments and money laundering.
Tajideen expanded his interest into various parts of Africa, moved to Angola in 1990, opening a warehouse which grew into a large Angolan trading company. He acquired Luanda-based Golfrate Holdings (Angola) Lda in 2005 from a Malawian born British citizen. The company is believed to be Angola’s leading producer and distributor of essential consumer goods, employing more than 1,400 people and supplying a wide network of retail stores, supermarkets, etc.
Today Tajideen serves as chairman of the company. He also owns local manufacturing units and sits on various company boards including Congo Futur, Afri-belg, and Arosfran. Another Belgian company he owns, or is related to, is Afroliner NV.
Qubaysi is a Cote d'Ivoire-based Hezbollah supporter and the personal representative of Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah. Qubaysi communicates with Hezbollah leaders and has hosted senior Hezbollah officials traveling to Cote d'Ivoire and other parts of Africa to raise money for organization. Qubaysi plays a visible role in Hezbollah activities in Cote d'Ivoire, including speaking at Hezbollah fundraising events and sponsoring meetings with high-ranking members of the terrorist organization.
Qubaysi also helped establish an official Hezbollah foundation in Cote d'Ivoire which has been used to recruit new members for Hezbollah's military ranks in Lebanon.
"We will continue to take steps to protect the financial system from the threat posed by Hezbollah and those who support it," says U.S. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey. "Not only is Hezbollah itself a terrorist organization with global reach, it also recently acknowledged publicly that it provides support to Hamas."
Diamonds in the Hands of Hezbollah
According to a U.S. government statement, “Hezbollah is a Lebanon-based terrorist group, which, until September 11, 2001, was responsible for more American deaths than any other terrorist organization. Hezbollah is closely allied with Iran and often acts at its behest, but it also can and does act independently. In addition, the group has been a strong ally in helping Syria advance its political objectives in the region, although Hezbollah does not share the Syrian regime's secular orientation.”
In a background briefing following the designation of Kassim Tajideen and Abd Al Menhem Qubaysi as sanctioned individuals, the U.S. government notes that Iran and Syria provide significant support to Hezbollah, giving money, weapons and training to the terrorist organization. In turn, Hezbollah is closely allied with and has an allegiance to these states. Iran is Hezbollah's main source of weapons and uses its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to train Hezbollah operatives in Lebanon and Iran. Iran provides hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Hezbollah.
The Majlis al-Shura, or Consultative Council, is the group's highest governing body and has been led by Secretary General Nasrallah since 1992. Hezbollah is known or suspected to have been involved in numerous terrorist attacks throughout the world, including the suicide truck bombings of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in 1983 and the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut in September 1984.
Hezbollah also perpetrated the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 en route from Athens to Rome, and has been implicated in the attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992 and a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires in 1994. The U.S. Government has indicted members of Hezbollah for their participation in the June 1996 truck bomb attack of the U.S. Air Force dormitory at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. Most recently, in July 2006, Hezbollah terrorists kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, triggering a violent conflict that resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties in Lebanon and Israel.
The Annex to Executive Order 12947 of January 23, 1995 listed Hezbollah as a Specially Designated Terrorist (SDT). The U.S. Department of State designated Hezbollah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in 1997. Additionally, on October 31, 2001, Hezbollah was designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224.