While they are in jail on allegations of financing the terror group, Hezbollah, the companies founded by these bank-rollers remain operational in Angola, the Southern African country that has earned a reputation as a refuge for international terror financiers.
Among the designated funders of the Lebanon-based, Iranian-backed terrorist group to have resided in Angola include Hatem Barakat and Kassim Tajideen, who are being accused of using the oil-rich country as a financial hub to sponsor Hezbollah.
While they have been arrested – in South America and Morocco respectively-and despite the government’s pledge to combat international terrorism, their companies have continued operating in Angola, raising fears the sponsorship of the insurgent group is maintained.
The Tajideen family allegedly operates criminal networks and traffic narcotics. These illegal enterprises generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue, and are seen by the United States (US) as a threat to the country and its citizens.
Angola is also seen as a transit and destination point for illegal drug trafficking from South America.
The US Department of the Treasury has branded Tajideen as “an important financial contributor to Hezbollah.”
Tajideen had lived in Angola since 1990, later founding companies including Golfrate Holdings Lda, Afri Belg Commercio E Industria Lda, and Grupo Arosfran Empreendimentos E Participacoes Sarl.
Located in the capital Luanda, the firms were formed between 1991 and 2005.
The United States designated the companies as terrorist entities in 2010, but it has emerged they continued to receive shipments from US-based companies in contravention of sanctions.
Employees at some of these companies have been quoted as saying while authorities in Angola had forced Tajidee to sell, proxies of the government bought the companies earlier this year.
Now in a US jail, Tajideen, he has been arraigned in the Federal Court on an eleven-count charge bordering on terror-related sanctions and money laundering.
Meanwhile, arrested recently in the border region between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay for alleged money laundering on behalf of the Hezbollah, Barakat’s last place of employment is listed on his social media pages as Infornet Princesa.
It is an electronics and toy store also in Luanda. He had however at the time of his arrest said to reside in Brazil. Another alleged Hezbollah financier and fugitive, Adnan El Rahi, has according to the US, also been in Angola. It could not be ascertained if he remained in the country.
The Arab League, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, European Union (EU), France, Gulf Cooperation Council, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, United States, United Kingdom (UK) and United Arab Emirates (UAE) have enlisted Hezbollah, formed in 1985, as a terror group.
The developments in Angola are contrary to a pledge by the government (Angola) to fight terror.
Hermenegildo José Félix, the State Secretary for Technical Assurance of the Interior, said the country would strengthen cooperation with United Nations (UN) agencies to combat the threat.
Speaking in June at the UN High Level Conference of Heads on Anti-Terrorism Organisations, he said illegal immigrants were taking advantage of Angola’s porous borders and settling particularly in diamond-rich areas.
Angola is Africa’s third-largest producer of diamonds, a mineral whose exploitation is said to fund Hezbollah.
“Angola is working on approval and improvement of legislation on anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism, under the United Nations resolutions,” Félix said.
Angolan president Joao Lourenco last week (Monday) described international terrorism as a main threat, while prescribing austerity as a cure to the struggling economy.
The president, who was speaking during an interview by journalists in state palace, said Angola is working to prevent the country from being affected by international terrorism.
President Lourenco, in power since 2017, has denounced international terrorism as a major threat.
The Counter Extremism Project an international policy organisation formed to combat the growing threat from extremist ideologies, believes in order to better combat terror and terrorism financing, Angola must fully enforce its own counter-terrorism policies and increase resources devoted to monitoring and countering these scourges.