One of the key business partners of the exiled former Gambian leader has been arrested in the Romanian capital over suspected funding of the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah.
Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi, a Lebanese business tycoon with ties to several businesses, including the ones in Gambia, is accused by the US of being the key financier of the militant group Hezbollah.
In 2018, a commission of inquiry on ex-President Jammeh’s business dealings found Bazi and his numerous businesses in the Gambia guilty of corruption.
According to Arab news online, Bazzi was labeled a “global terrorist” by the United States in 2018 when $10 million was offered for information about his whereabouts, has funneled millions of dollars to Hezbollah over the years, authorities said.
“US Attorney Breon Peace in Brooklyn said the extradition of Bazzi and Lebanese citizen Talal Chahine, 78, was sought on charges contained in an indictment returned last month in Brooklyn federal court.
“Mohammad Bazzi thought that he could secretly move hundreds of thousands of dollars from the United States to Lebanon without detection by law enforcement,” Peace said in a release. “Today’s arrest proves that Bazzi was wrong,” the Arab online reported.
According to the paper, Charges against Bazzi and Chahine included conspiracy to cause US individuals to conduct unlawful transactions with a global terrorist and money laundering conspiracy. However, who would represent the men when they arrived in the United States was still being determined.
Daniel J. Kafafian, acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration in New Jersey, said the defendants “attempted to provide continued financial assistance to Hezbollah, a foreign terrorist organization responsible for death and destruction.”
According to the release announcing his arrest, the news media reports that Romanian law enforcement authorities took Bazzi into custody after he arrived in Bucharest on Friday.
Authorities said Bazzi and Chahine conspired to force or induce an individual in the US to liquidate their interests in some real estate assets in Michigan and covertly transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds out of the US to Bazzi and Chahine in Lebanon.