The Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating a Kansas-based international food company that owns a 50 percent stake in Butterball, one of the largest turkey producers in the United States, for alleged ties to Shiite Iran’s narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has learned.
In central Africa, a subsidiary of the U.S. company Seaboard Corporation has reportedly done millions of dollars of business with a company linked to the Tajideen family from Lebanon, which has been accused of providing substantial financial support to the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah.
The Justice Department, as part of a broad criminal probe, is investigating whether Kansas-based Seaboard Corp. tried to mask wheat-flour sales to firms linked to a Lebanese businessman and his family in the years after he and two brothers were put on the government’s terror blacklist in 2009 and 2010.
The brothers have allegedly given tens of millions of dollars to Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group backed by Iran, U.S. officials said. Penalties for companies working with anyone on the list range from fines to prison under laws intended to starve terror groups of cash to carry out attacks.
The Lebanese businessman has been identified as 61-year-old Kassim Tajideen. He has been added to the U.S. terror list since the spring of 2009. At the time, Kassim and his brothers operated “cover companies” for Hezbollah in Africa and provided the terrorist group with financial support.
Seaboard Corp. has denied the allegations that it has conducted business with companies linked to the Tajideen family.
A lawyer representing the U.S.-based corporation told the Journal that Seaboard Corp. “has specific policies that prohibit doing business with companies and individuals designated” as terrorist groups.
The company claims “the allegation arose from a competitor it didn’t name,” notes WSJ, adding that DOJ has refused to comment on the matter.
International companies in the United States are responsible for avoiding any business dealings with the more than 1,000 individuals, companies, and entities that the U.S. government has deemed to be affiliated with terrorism.
“Prosecutions are rare, but companies risk civil penalties for even unintentional work,” reports WSJ.
“The Journal’s findings underscore the complexity of policing the global economy, which relies on relatively unrestricted movements of goods and capital,” it adds. “Laws are porous, allowing U.S. firms to legally do business with a company linked to a blacklisted terror suspect who doesn’t hold a majority stake.”
Besides Seaboard Corporation, other U.S. companies have worked with firms associated with Lebanon’s Tajideen family members, including Kassim Tajideen, the eldest brother, according to the Journal.
“They have massive business empires,” Matthew Levitt, a former Treasury official, told WSJ, referring to the family. “They’re very politically connected, especially in areas of the world where there’s rampant corruption.”
“I love Hezbollah,” said Ali, one of the Tajideen family members, claiming that he had never heard of Seaboard Corp. “Everyone loves Hezbollah… But I have no relations” with them.
Ali denied allegations by the United States that he had served as a Hezbollah commander.