By Joel Schectman
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. authorities charged a Lebanese businessman with evading sanctions placed against him because of his alleged support for the Hezbollah militant movement.
Kassim Tajideen, 62, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Friday, and will be held in jail until a detention hearing next week, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that Tajideen had been arrested on March 12 in Morocco on an international warrant issued by Interpol's Washington office.
U.S. authorities say Tajideen ran a multi-billion-dollar "global business empire" that traded in commodities across the Middle East and Africa. In 2009, U.S. authorities placed Tajideen on a sanction blacklist because of his alleged support for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Tajideen's arrest and indictment followed a two-year investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and assisted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Justice Department said in a statement.
“Tajideen acted as a key source of funds for (Hezbollah's) global terror network," Raymond Donovan, a DEA special agent in charge of the Special Operations Division, said in the statement.
By restructuring the company and using a complex web of trade names, U.S. authorities say Tajideen was able to hide his involvement and continue doing business with U.S. companies.
(Reporting by Joel Schectman; Editing by Leslie Adler)