A Reuters report earlier this month drew attention to Hizballah's expanding business interests in Africa. Highly profitable forest deals have been granted by President Joseph Kabila's government in Congo to a firm led by a Lebanese businessman who allegedly heads another enterprise targeted by the U.S. Treasury as a front for Hizballah.
Last year, Congo's environmental ministry awarded long-term contracts for thousands of hectares of rainforest to the Trans-M company. The Congo rainforest in central Africa is the second largest after the Amazon. Experts believe the contracts have the potential to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues.
Ahmed Tajideen is the leader of Trans-M. His other known business, Congo Futur, was targeted in 2010 by the U.S. Treasury as a front for Hizballah. The company forms part of a larger network of businesses led by Tajideen's three brothers, Kassim, Husayn and Ali. In May 2009, the U.S. Treasury designated Kassim Tajideen as an Africa-based supporter of Hizballah. Kassim "contributed tens of millions of dollars to Hizballah," the Treasury press release said. The funds were sent to Hizballah through Kassim's brother, who served as a commander for the terrorist group in Lebanon. Authorities arrested Kassim in 2003 in Belgium in connection with fraud, money laundering, and diamond smuggling.
Ahmed Tajideen who is not a target of Treasury sanctions denied any connection between Congo Futur and Trans-M and said neither of the companies served as a front for Hizballah. He also denied any association between his brothers and either of the businesses.
"I created both companies independently of each other" Tajideen told Reuters, adding "My brothers have nothing to do with the companies."
A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from 2000, however, quoted Tajideen saying Trans-M was established by Congo Futur.
Africa is becoming a hub for growing Hizballah activity. Last year, federal authorities accused Lebanese drug dealer Ayman Joumaa in connection with a multi-million dollar cocaine and automobile smuggling enterprise in the United States and West Africa. Profits from the enterprise have been believed to have been routed to Hizballah in Lebanon.