EXCLUSIVE-Congo under scrutiny over Hezbollah business links

Fri Mar 16, 2012 2:33pm GMT

* Forestry deals go to firm controlled by Lebanese businessman

* Another of his companies already targeted by U.S. sanctions

* Washington is tracking Hezbollah business activity in Africa

By Dino Mahtani

LONDON, March 16 (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo has awarded lucrative forestry concessions to a company controlled by a Lebanese businessman who also runs a firm subject to sanctions by the United States as a front for Hezbollah.

The 2011 concessions issued by Congo's environment ministry to the Trans-M company, seen by Reuters, could complicate Washington's efforts to curb what it says are the Lebanese militant movement's growing business activities in Africa.

The concessions cover 25-year leases for hundreds of thousands of hectares of rainforest in the central African country, the world's second forest "lung" after the Amazon. The concessions are capable of generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues over 25 years, if fully exploited, forestry experts say.

Trans-M is controlled by businessman Ahmed Tajideen (whose name is also given as Tajeddine in U.S. Treasury documents). He also runs another company, Congo Futur, which the U.S. government says is a front for Hezbollah. Congo Futur cites sawmilling as one of its businesses.

The U.S. Treasury Department put Congo Futur under targeted sanctions in 2010, saying the firm was part of a network of businesses ultimately controlled by Tajideen's three brothers, Kassim, Husayn and Ali, and that this generated "millions of dollars in funding" for Hezbollah.   Continued...

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