Romanian authorities have announced the arrest of Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi, a Lebanese-Belgian citizen and a key Hezbollah fundraiser and financer of the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah. Bazzi’s arrest took place in Bucharest last Friday, and it is considered a significant milestone in the fight against Hezbollah. The US government had been seeking Bazzi’s arrest since 2018, and his apprehension in Bucharest is being viewed as a success.
Bazzi’s role as a “Hezbollah fundraiser”
Bazzi, who is 58 years old, has been accused of funnelling millions of dollars to Lebanon’s Hezbollah over the years and is said to be a major Hezbollah fundraiser. In 2018, the US labelled Bazzi a “global terrorist,” and a $10 million reward was offered for information leading to his arrest. Breon Peace, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, charged Bazzi and Talal Chahine, both Lebanese citizens, with conspiracy “to conduct and cause American persons to conduct unlawful transactions and money laundering conspiracy.”
According to Peace, “Mohammad Bazzi thought that he could secretly move hundreds of thousands of dollars from the United States to Lebanon without detection by law enforcement. Today’s arrest proves that Bazzi was wrong.” DEA Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Daniel J. Kafafian added, “The defendants in this case attempted to provide continued financial assistance to Hizballah, a foreign terrorist organization responsible for death and destruction.” Kafafian further emphasized the DEA’s commitment to working with law enforcement and foreign counterparts to dismantle the operations of organizations that support terrorism financially.
Bazzi’s role in West Africa, specifically The Republic of the Gambia, has also come under scrutiny. He was a significant minority shareholder in Prime Bank in The Gambia, which allegedly served as a crucial money-laundering instrument for Hezbollah in West Africa. Bazzi had ties to Yahya Jammeh, the former leader of The Gambia from the mid-1990s to 2017. The financier’s extradition to the US is pending, and further investigations into his activities are ongoing.
Image Credit: Rewards for Justice