A Lebanese – Belgian citizen, considered a significant financer of the Hezbollah militant group, was arrested on Friday in Bucharest upon arriving at the airport. A $10 million reward had been offered for any tip on his whereabouts.
According to US authorities, Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi, 58, listed as a “global terrorist” by the United States in 2018, has funnelled millions of dollars to Hezbollah over the years.
U.S. Attorney Breon Peace in Brooklyn said the extradition of Bazzi and 78-year-old Lebanese national Talal Chahine was sought based on the charges in an indictment handed down last month in federal court in Brooklyn.
“Mohammad Bazzi believed he could secretly move hundreds of thousands of dollars from the United States to Lebanon without being detected by law enforcement,” Peace said in a statement. “Today’s arrest proves that Bazzi was wrong”.
Charges against Bazzi and Chahine include conspiracy to determine US individuals to conduct illegal transactions with a global terrorist and conspiracy to commit money laundering. According to the press release announcing his arrest, Romanian law enforcement authorities detained Bazzi after he arrived in Bucharest on Friday.
Authorities said Bazzi and Chahine conspired to force or induce a US person to liquidate some real estate in Michigan and covertly transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars of the proceeds from the US to Bazzi and Chahine in Lebanon.
The men were caught in recorded conversations suggesting numerous ways to hide from US officials that Bazzi was the source and destination of the sale proceeds and that the men were involved, authorities said.
Hezbollah is a political and paramilitary organization initially established to fight against the Israeli occupation of Lebanon. His armed wing is considered stronger than Lebanon’s army, and it has, according to some estimations, more than 100,000 fighters. It has been involved in conflicts worldwide, from training militias in Syria and Iraq to fight ISIS to supporting Muslims in Europe and the Middle East.
Mainly funded by Iran, interested in harassing the Israeli army, Hezbollah, or The Party of Allah, it is now considered, entirely or only its military wing, a terrorist organization by the European Union and other states worldwide.