A man who is allegedly a major financier of the Iran-backed militant organization Hezbollah has been arrested in Romania before his extradition to the United States, five years after the U.S on designated him as a „global terrorist.”
Romanian authorities arrested 58-year-old Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi after he arrived in the capital Bucharest on Saturday, and will reportedly be extradited to the US on charges of financing Hezbollah with millions of dollars through his business activities in Belgium, Lebanon, Iraq, and west Africa, Middle East Monitor reported.
The Lebanese and Belgian citizen was designated a „global terrorist” by the US in 2018, with $10 million offered for information on his whereabouts. That designation effectively forbade all Americans from conducting business or transactions with Bazzi or for his benefit.
Despite that, Bazzi and another Lebanese citizen – 78-year-old Talal Chahine – concocted a variety of methods to hide their activity from law enforcement and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), including the transfer of funds through a third party in China as part of a fictional purchase of restaurant equipment and a third party in Lebanon as part of a fabricated real estate purchase.
Another method was the attempt to funnel money through Chahine’s family members in Kuwait as part of fabricated intra-family loans, as well as part of a fictitious franchising agreement as payment for the rights to operate a Lebanese-based restaurant chain throughout the US.
According to US Attorney Breon Peace in Brooklyn, the charges through which the extradition of Bazzi and Chahine will be carried out are contained in an indictment returned to Brooklyn’s federal court last month. „As alleged, Mohammad Bazzi thought that he could secretly move hundreds of thousands of dollars from the United States to Lebanon without detection by law enforcement. Today’s arrest proves that Bazzi was wrong,” Peace stated.
The Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, Daniel Kafafian, also stated that „The defendants in this case attempted to provide continued financial assistance to Hizballah, a foreign terrorist organization responsible for death and destruction.”