Lebanese businessman pleads guilty to violating US sanctions

Kassim Tajideen, 63, of Beirut, was accused of conspiring with at least five other people to conduct over $50 million in transactions with U.S. businesses, in violation of sanctions that barred him from doing business with U.S. people and companies because of his support for Hezbollah.

Tajideen and the five other people, whose names weren't revealed, also engaged in transactions outside the U.S. that transmitted more than $1 billion through U.S. financial institutions, federal prosecutors said.

Tajideen was arrested in Morocco and extradited to the United States in March 2017. He appeared Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C., and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, in violation of a federal law known as the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

"This Department of Justice has put a target on Hezbollah," Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a statement announcing Tajideen's conviction. "We are going to keep targeting Hezbollah and other terrorist groups and their supporters, and we are going to keep winning."

As part of his plea deal, Tajideen is expected to serve five years in a U.S. prison, prosecutors said. He is scheduled to be sentenced in January.

The U.S. considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization. In October, the Justice Department created a new task force aimed at zeroing in on Hezbollah and four other transnational criminal organizations that it had declared as priorities for federal law enforcement.

Formed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in 1982 to fight Israel's invasion of Beirut, Hezbollah has morphed into a powerful political player in Lebanon, running its own media and communication channels and providing government-like services to followers in its strongholds.

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Follow Michael Balsamo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 .

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