WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today sentenced Lebanese businessman Kassim Tajideen to an agreed-upon term of 60 months incarceration, plus a forfeiture obligation that Mr. Tajideen has already satisfied. Mr. Tajideen had earlier pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering, because Mr. Tajideen's companies purchased commercial products such as frozen chicken from U.S. suppliers while Mr. Tajideen was included, wrongly in his opinion, on a "terrorism" blacklist maintained by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control. Before Mr. Tajideen agreed to the plea, the government eliminated all references in the Indictment to terrorism and financing of terrorism.
Mr. Tajideen was born into severe poverty in 1950s rural Lebanon. He began working part-time at age 7 and full-time at age 11 to help provide for his 15 siblings, three of whom would die as children. He worked as a laborer, mechanic, and cab driver until 1975, when he left for Africa to escape the Lebanon Civil War. In Africa, still penniless, he got a job in a family-owned convenience store. He quickly learned the business and soon opened his own small grocery. More stores followed as he earned credit with suppliers, and eventually he expanded to multiple countries in west Africa. In 1992 he opened a store in war-torn Angola and gradually built thriving businesses throughout that country. At one time his businesses employed over 4000 Angolans and others and sold food and other staples in some of the neediest regions on earth.
In 2009, OFAC placed Mr. Tajideen on its list of "Specially Designated Global Terrorists," ostensibly for providing funding to Hezbollah. The designation slowly suffocated Mr. Tajideen's African businesses as banks and suppliers severed relationships with his companies. Mr. Tajideen categorically rejected the OFAC designation and, unlike virtually all other persons on the SDGT list, petitioned OFAC for nearly a decade to de-list him. His lawyers met with OFAC officials several times to provide information about Mr. Tajideen's businesses; OFAC did not add several newly disclosed businesses to its list. Although OFAC never accepted Mr. Tajideen's petitions, it also never fully revealed its basis for listing him.
In 2017, before the OFAC proceedings were concluded, the U.S. Department of Justice secretly indicted Mr. Tajideen for continuing to purchase food products from U.S. suppliers while he remained on the list. In March 2017, U.S. authorities orchestrated Mr. Tajideen's arrest in Morocco and his extradition to the United States. In the 28 ensuing months, Mr. Tajideen has been continuously incarcerated in a Virginia regional jail. He has had no visits from his family and friends in Lebanon – many of whom escaped poverty themselves because of Mr. Tajideen's industry and beneficence. He has chronic cardiac and vascular issues and other medical conditions and injuries that are difficult to treat in jail.
Mr. Tajideen accepts that he should have waited for OFAC to remove him from the list before purchasing food supplies from U.S. companies, and he regrets that mistake. But he is not and never has been a supporter of terrorism. He wants nothing more than to return to his family in Lebanon, and to rebuild his lawful and vital businesses in peace.
SOURCE Zuckerman Spaeder LLP