A Lebanese national who was detained in Morocco Sunday is in good health, his family told The Daily Star Wednesday, as they decried the media’s coverage of the case. The family’s lawyer confirmed that Kassem Tajeddine was indeed detained by Moroccan authorities Sunday.
“He was on his way from Conakry [in Guinea] with a stopover in Casablanca – this was Sunday. He was arrested and taken away, and we were left without information for about two days,” the family’s lawyer Chibli Mallat told The Daily Star via email.
“Through a Moroccan lawyer, we found that he had been arrested and taken to a prison in Sale [just north of the capital Rabat]. The lawyer saw him yesterday and he is in good shape and in high spirits.”
Mallat added that no charges have yet been brought against Tajeddine and that the Moroccan authorities were treating him well.
“We can only suspect that there is something that comes from the American authorities,” he said. “[But] the lawyer hasn’t been able to find out.” He added that there has also been no word from American officials regarding Tajeddine’s arrest. “We have absolutely no idea, I spoke with the U.S. ambassador in Morocco and he doesn’t know yet. We should be able to find out in the coming days.”
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control added Tajeddine to its sanctions list in May 2009. Then in 2010, businesses linked to Tajeddine and his two brothers, Ali and Hussein Tajeddine, were also added. This included Tajco, a company with offices in Gambia, Sierra Leone and Lebanon, as well as several subsidiaries, and Ovlas Trading S.A., with offices in Lebanon and the U.K., as well as subsidiaries.
Additional branches of Tajco in Ghana were added to the sanctions list in April 2012.
The Tajeddine family reportedly owns and operates a multibillion-dollar business conglomerate, active in much of Africa and the Middle East. The family works in a range of sectors, including trade, agriculture, real estate and food distribution.
Multiple reports as well as the U.S. sanctions list have previously asserted that the family has consistently diverted sizable sums – in the millions of dollars – to Hezbollah, which is itself designated a terrorist entity by the U.S. government.
Hussein Tajeddine, Kassem’s son decried the media’s response to his father’s arrest.
“A lot of false stories are being circulated. This might result in a negative image and a negative atmosphere that might hinder the proceedings,” he told The Daily Star. “We would also like to add a message from the family to the public that he is fine, is being well treated and has not been subject to any type of torture.”
Mallat stressed that the family has fully cooperated with the U.S.’ inquiries into Tajeddine’s business dealings in an effort to remove him of the sanctions list, but as yet he remains on the list.
“I’ve been involved from early on, in 2009 when he was put on the list of supporters of terrorism by OFAC. I didn’t want to take it on, it was a difficult subject, but he persisted,” Mallat said. “There isn’t a single piece of information that the American government has asked for that he hasn’t given.”