US targets Lebanese businesses in AfricaBy KEMO CHAM in Freetown | Thursday, May 24 2012 at 17:38
Lebanese businessmen in Sierra Leone, Gambia, DR Congo and Angola have come under US scrutiny over suspected links with the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which the US labels a terrorist organisation.
Those deemed to have Hezbollah links are being tagged by the US Treasury Department as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” (SDGT).
Ali Tajideen and Husayn Tajideen, who are the latest designees, and who work with a brother and partner, Kassim Tajideen, are described as top Hezbollah financiers by the US.
The latter was designated back in 2009 as a proxy of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Husayn is believed to be based in The Gambia, with interests extending to Sierra Leone, Angola and DRC. Ali is said to be based in Lebanon.
The US move targets the network of businesses owned and controlled by the trio in the four African countries as well as in Lebanon and the British Virgin Islands.
“Ali and Husayn Tajideen`s multinational network generates millions of dollars in funding and secures strategic geographical strongholds for Hezbollah,” said a statement by the US Treasury Department.
It said that the action was in line with the US government’s pursuit of terrorists and to “isolate….from the US financial and commercial systems” those who give them support to terror groups.
The US considers Hezbollah to be one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world. However, according to reports, the US action is beginning to take effect in Angola and Gambia.
Tajco (short for Tajideen Company) is a multipurpose, multinational entity with interest in international trade, real estate as well as general merchandising.
In Gambia, the company’s name is synonymous with that of its largest investment in the country, Kairaba Supermarket, which is the biggest shopping complex in the country.
In DRC, the Tajideen business interest encompasses the food and diamond sectors, under the name Congo Future, among a host of other businesses.
Other interests are in Lebanon and the British Virgin Islands, which are also targeted by the latest US sanctions.
In Angola, the authorities reportedly forced the Tajideen brothers to sell their local company, while a related business interest, in the form of a bank, the Prime Bank of Gambia, is said to be up for sale in Gambia.
The bank, which has been existence for less than two years, was acquired in controversial circumstances in August last year by the Lebanon-based SociétéGénérale de Banque au Liban (SGBL).
The classification of Prime Bank by the US government as a suspected money launderer took the controversy surrounding its purchase to a whole new level, with SGBL now claiming to have been forced to take full control of it.
“From day one we were forced to take over Prime Bank Gambia as a result of our acquisition of certain assets and liabilities,” said Georges Saghbini, deputy general manager of SGBL.
“We never controlled the bank, we did not do correspondent banking with the bank, it was never an affiliate of ours,” he said.
Nonetheless, some sources in Gambia say the country’s president, Yahya Jammeh, who is notorious for taking over such troubled businesses, could be rooting to acquire the bank through proxies.
Other reports link the Ghana government to a purchase deal said to be worth around $8 million.
In Sierra Leone, Tajco It is best known for its string of shops dealing in foodstuff and basic household items.
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