Alleged Hezbollah financier Mohammad Bazzi arraigned in Brooklyn Federal Court

April 27, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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Mohammad Bazzi, an alleged financier of terrorist organization Hezbollah, was arraigned on Wednesday in Brooklyn Federal Court before Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo.

Bazzi was arrested in Romania in February 2023 and extradited to the United States on Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Bazzi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for assisting in, sponsoring, and providing financial, material, and technological support and financial services to Hezballah.

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A three-count indictment unsealed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York charges Bazzi, a Lebanese and Belgian citizen, and Talal Chahine, a Lebanese citizen, with conspiracy to conduct and cause United States persons to conduct unlawful transactions with a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, attempt to conduct and cause United States persons to conduct unlawful transactions with a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and money laundering conspiracy.

If convicted, each count in the indictment is punishable by up to twenty years imprisonment.

The indictment alleges that Bazzi and Chahine conspired to force or induce an individual in the United States to liquidate their interests in certain real estate assets located in Michigan and covertly transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds from the liquidation to Bazzi and Chahine in Lebanon without the requisite OFAC licenses, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

According to prosecutors, Bazzi and Chahine, secretly repurchased a restaurant chain and established a headquarters facility to shield their assets from creditors. In 2018, Bazzi was designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) by the Treasury Department for acting for or on behalf of Hezbollah. As a result, his interests in any property in the US, including the restaurant chain and its assets, were blocked.

Bazzi and Chahine then allegedly conspired to evade the legal prohibitions against such transactions and transfer the proceeds of the sale of some assets outside the United States by transferring the funds through various fictitious schemes. They discussed transferring the funds through a third party in China, a third party in Lebanon, and one or more of Chahine’s family members in Kuwait and elsewhere, among others.

Bazzi and Chahine continued their efforts to transfer, export and withdraw their property and interests in property without obtaining the required licenses from the Treasury Department. They were charged with conspiracy to conduct unlawful transactions involving a specially designated global terrorist.

Bazzi has retained attorneys Abed Hammoud and Patrick Hurford, both Michigan-based, and Richard Hong as local counsel. The government is represented by Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan Lax, Nomi Berenson, Robert Pollack, and Fran Navarro.

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