UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. THREE SUMS TOTALING $241,386.58 IN SEIZED UNITED STATES CURRENCY
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Reggie B. Walton on June 3, 2021. (lcrbw2)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
THREE SUMS TOTALING $241,386.58
IN SEIZED UNITED STATES
Defendants in rem.
Civil Action No. 18-750 (RBW)
The plaintiff, the United States of America (the “government”), brings this civil forfeiture
action “against United States currency involved in and traceable to violations of the International
Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977 [(the ‘Act’)], 50 U.S.C. §§ 1701–1706, [and] the
Money Laundering Control Act of 1986, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2)(A) and 1956(h),” alleging that
“[t]hese funds are subject to forfeiture pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 981(a)(1)(A), (C), and 984.”
Verified Complaint for Forfeiture in Rem (“Compl.” or the “Complaint”) ¶ 1, ECF No. 1.
Contesting this action is AJC Trading FZC (the “claimant”). Currently pending before the Court
is Claimant AJC Trading FZC’s Motion to Dismiss the Verified Complaint for Forfeiture In Rem
(the “claimant’s motion to dismiss” or “Claimant’s Mot.”), ECF No. 12, pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Upon careful consideration of the parties’
submissions,1 the Court concludes for the following reasons that it must deny the claimant’s
In addition to the filings already identified, the Court considered the following submissions in rendering its
decision: (1) the Memorandum of Law in Support of AJC Trading FZC’s Motion to Dismiss the Verified Complaint
for Forfeiture In Rem (“Claimant’s Mem.”), ECF No. 12-1; (2) the Government’s Opposition to Claimant AJC
(continued . . .)
The following funds constitute the defendants in rem:
$45,695.59[ ] in United States currency, formerly located at Deutsche Bank
Trust Company Americas, seized on or about August 21, 2017, and assigned
an asset identification number ending in 4160 by the [United States]
Department of Justice (“SUM A”);
$174,949.58 in United States currency, formerly located at Bank of New
York Mellon, seized on or about August 29, 2017, and assigned an asset
identification number ending in 5258 by the [United States] Department of
Justice (“SUM B”); [and]
$20,741.41 in United States currency, formerly located at Citibank N.A.,
seized on or about August 29, 2017, and assigned an asset identification
number ending in 7708 by the [United States] Department of Justice (“SUM
Id. ¶ 4.
On May 27, 2009, the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of
Foreign Assets Control (the “OFAC”) “designated Kassim Tajideen [(‘Tajideen’)] as a[
Specially Designated Global Terrorist (‘SDGT’)] pursuant to [the Act] and Executive
Order 13224 2 based on his significant financial support of the Hizbollah terrorist
organization.” 3 Compl. ¶ 14. “Also on December 9, 2010, OFAC designated, among
others, . . . six companies as SDGTs . . . pursuant to [the Act] and Executive Order 13224
(. . . continued)
Trading FZC’s Motion to Dismiss (“Gov’t’s Opp’n”), ECF No. 13; and (3) the Claimant AJC Trading FZC’s Reply
Memorandum in Support of Its Motion to Dismiss (“Claimant’s Reply”), ECF No. 14.
Executive Order No. 13,224, 66 Fed.Reg. 49,079, “describe[s] the types of conduct that could subject an entity to
blocking of its assets, such as providing financial support to terrorists . . . and authorized the designat[ion of]
additional entities . . . determine[d to be] within the purview of the Order.” Islamic Am. Relief Agency v. Gonzales,
477 F.3d 728, 734–35 (D.C. Cir. 2007).
On December 9, 2010, the OFAC “designated [ ] Tajideen’s brother, Husayn Tajideen[,] as an SDGT for the same
reasons[, and a]t all times since their respective designation dates until today, both individuals have remained
SDGTs.” Compl. ¶ 14.
. . . [,] after being identified as being owned by, controlled by, or operated for the benefit
of, the OFAC-designated Tajideen brothers.” Id. ¶ 15. “At all times since their
designation date until today, all of these entities have remained SDGTs.” Id.
A. The Criminal Case Against Tajideen
The criminal activity of Tajideen, his designation as an SDGT, and the forfeitures
involving Tajideen’s assets are not new to this Court. On March 7, 2017, a grand jury issued an
Indictment charging Tajideen and a codefendant with one count of conspiracy to violate the Act
and the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. pt. 594, as well as multiple counts of
unlawful transactions with an SGDT and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
See generally Indictment, United States v. Tajideen, Crim. Action No. 17-46 (D.D.C. Mar. 7,
2017) (the “Indictment”), ECF No. 1. “[O]n March 25, 2017, agents of [United States] Drug
Enforcement Agency transported [Tajideen] to the United States,” in order to execute Tajideen’s
extradition. Defendant Kassim Tajideen’s Motion to Dismiss No. 7 As to Superseding
Indictment at 5, United States v. Tajideen, Crim. Action No. 17-46 (D.D.C. Mar. 16, 2018), ECF
No. 116. On February 15, 2018, the grand jury issued a Superseding Indictment which instead
charged Tajideen with one count of conspiracy to conduct unlawful transactions and cause
United States persons to conduct unlawful transactions with an SGDT and to defraud the United
States by dishonest means, as well as involvement in the unlawful transactions and money
laundering counts. See generally Superseding Indictment, United States v. Tajideen, Crim.
Action No. 17-46 (D.D.C. Feb. 15, 2018) (the “Superseding Indictment”), ECF No. 89. Both the
original Indictment and the Superseding Indictment included forfeiture counts. See Indictment at
26; Superseding Indictment at 25. As this Court previously explained:
In short, the defendant is charged with allegedly “continu[ing] to conduct business
with [United States] entities through a large network of businesses with ever3
changing names run by a relatively small group of personnel, effectively hiding his
own involvement in the transactions,” despite his designation as an SDGT by the
United States v. Tajideen, No. CR 17-46, 2018 WL 1342475, at *1 (D.D.C. Mar. 15, 2018) (first
and second alterations in original, aff'd, 724 F. App'x 6 (D.C. Cir. 2018).
Tajideen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and was sentenced to
sixty months of imprisonment, with all other counts being “dismissed on the motion of the
United States.” 4 Judgment at 1–2, United States v. Tajideen, Crim. Action No. 17-46 (D.D.C.
Aug. 12, 2019) (the “Judgment”), ECF No. 251. Tajideen was also required to forfeit his interest
in “a money judgment of $50,000,000.00” to the United States. Id. at 6. According to the
Statement of Facts tendered as part of Tajideen’s guilty plea, Tajideen
acknowledge[d] that . . . his [SDGT] designation by [the] OFAC, and the
prohibitions on transactions attendant to it under the [Act] and other regulations,
were in full force during the period of the conspiracy period . . . , and, that other
laws made it unlawful for any person to violate, attempt to violate, conspire to
violate, or cause a violation of these prohibitions.
Statement of Facts at 2, United States v. Tajideen, Crim. Action No. 17-46 (RBW)
(D.D.C. Dec. 6, 2018) (the “Statement of Facts”), ECF No. 214. Furthermore, the Statement of
Facts that Tajideen acknowledged was accurate when he entered his guilty plea, indicates that he
and his co-conspirators engaged in a plethora of transactions, see id. at 3–4, including wire
transfers—at least similar to those alleged in this forfeiture action—of “as much as $1 billion
through the United States financial system from places outside the United States,” Id. at 4
On June 4, 2020, the Court amended its Judgment to modify Tajideen’s prison sentence to the time he had already
served. Amended Judgment, United States v. Tajideen, Crim. Action No. 17-46 (D.D.C. Jun. 4, 2020), ECF No.
B. The Government’s Forfeiture Allegations
The government alleges that the claimant in this case—AJC Trading FZC—is “an entity
based in Tema, Ghana[,] and Dubai, United Arab Emirates[,] owned by, controlled by, or
operated for the benefit of Tajideen and” one of those six companies being designated as an
SDGT—Ovlas Trading SA (“Ovlas”). Compl. ¶ 21. The claimant is “part of a portfolio of
[eleven] Ghana-based companies and tradenames operated by Ali Jaber for the benefit of [ ]
Tajideen and Ovlas[,] ” id. ¶ 22, and “shares resources, finances, personnel, and other interests
with Ovlas” and the portfolio of the Ghana-based entities, id. ¶ 23. Its “daily operations are
managed by [individuals known as] Ali Jaber and Hussein Jaber.” See id. ¶ 21.
The defendant funds involved in this case were seized “[p]ursuant to seizure warrants
issued by this Court . . . and then transferred to the possession and custody of the United States
Marshals Service, where they remain.” Id. ¶ 5. The government makes three claims as grounds
for its forfeiture request, which are based on the traceability of the seized defendant funds to (1)
specified violations under the Act, see id. ¶¶ 42–46; (2) a conspiracy to violate the Act, see id. ¶¶
47–51, and (3) international money laundering, see id. ¶¶ 52–56. “SUM A, SUM B, and SUM C
were each seized while involved in interbank transfers that transited through the United States.”
Id. ¶ 28. As to SUM A and SUM B, the government alleges that the claimant “attempted to wire
transfer” those defendant funds, and as to SUM C, the government alleges that the claimant
maintained the beneficiary account intended to receive those defendant funds. Id. ¶¶ 29–41. At
no time “did any related parties to the transaction[s] involving” SUM A, SUM B, and SUM C “
have the proper license from [the] OFAC to conduct business for the benefit of [ ] Tajideen or
Ovlas [ ].” Id. ¶¶ 30, 34, 38.
C. The Claimant’s Entry into this Case
On September 27, 2018, the claimant filed its first motion in this case, which sought
leave for an extension of time to file a verified claim in this matter. See generally Claimant AJC
Trading FZC Motion to Extend Time and for Leave to File Verified Claim, ECF No. 5. The
Court granted the claimant’s motion, accepted as filed the claimant’s Verified Claim, and
ordered the claimant to “answer or otherwise respond to the Complaint on or before September
17, 2019.” Order at 9 (Sept. 3, 2019), ECF No. 11. On September 17, 2019, the claimant filed
its motion to dismiss, which is the subject of this memorandum opinion.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Pleadings in forfeiture actions proceed pursuant to the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty
or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions (the “Supplemental Rules”), as well as the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to the extent they are not “inconsistent with [the] Supplemental
Rules.” See Supplemental Rule (“Supp. R.”) A(2).
A. Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests whether a complaint “state[s] a claim upon which relief can
be granted[.]” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). “To survive a motion to dismiss [under Rule 12(b)(6)], a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the [C]ourt to draw [a] reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
In evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “the Court must construe the
complaint ‘in favor of the plaintiff, who must be granted the benefit of all inferences that can be
derived from the facts alleged.’” Hettinga v. United States, 677 F.3d 471, 476 (D.C. Cir. 2012)
(quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979)). While the Court must
“assume the[ ] veracity” of any “well-pleaded factual allegations” in a complaint, conclusory
allegations “are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Thus,
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Also, the Court need
not “accept legal conclusions cast as factual allegations” or “inferences drawn by [the] plaintiff if
those inferences are not supported by the facts set out in the complaint[.]” Hettinga, 677 F.3d at
476. And, the Court “may consider only the facts alleged in the complaint, any documents either
attached to or incorporated in the complaint[,] and matters of which [the Court] may take judicial
notice.” Equal Emp. Opportunity Comm’n v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621,
624 (D.C. Cir. 1997).
B. Supplemental Rule G
Supplemental Rule G requires that “the complaint must be verified, state the grounds for
jurisdiction, describe the property ‘with reasonable particularity,’ identify the statute under
which the action is brought, and ‘state sufficiently detailed facts to support a reasonable belief
that the government will be able to meet its burden of proof at trial.’” United States v.
$1,071,251.44 of Funds Associated with Mingzheng Int'l Trading Ltd., No. 17-CV-1166-KBJGMH, 2018 WL 3949962, at *4 (D.D.C. June 29, 2018), report and recommendation adopted,
324 F. Supp. 3d 38 (D.D.C. 2018) (quoting Supp. R. G(2)). A complaint in rem must also “state
the circumstances from which the claim arises with such particularity that the defendant or
claimant will be able, without moving for a more definite statement, to commence an
investigation of the facts and to frame a responsive pleading.” Supp. R. E(2)(a). As always,
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a [forfeiture] cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
However, the court may not dismiss the complaint solely because the government did not have
“adequate evidence at the time the complaint was filed to establish the forfeitability of the
[defendant] property.” Supp. R. G(8)(b(ii).
The claimant contends that the government’s Complaint is insufficient in several
respects. First, the claimant argues that “while the [g]overnment’s Complaint asserts that the
defendant property is traceable to violations [of the Act], it does not meet the standards for
pleading that claim” because the Complaint “fails to state any specific facts in support of [the]
allegation” that the claimant is owned by, controlled by, or operated for the benefit of alleged
SDGTs. Claimant’s Mem. at 6. As part of this argument, the claimant asserts that the Complaint
fails to to (1) plead “facts concerning the alleged involvement of blocked persons . . . except
[those made] in a conclusory manner[,]” id. at 9, and (2) “allege that any violation of [the Act]
was both knowing and willful,” id. at 10. In response, the government “concedes that it has not
put forth a complex theory or extraordinarily detailed set of facts in the [ ] Complaint[,]” but
argues that “the simplicity and straightforward nature of the [government’s] allegations should
not be confused with insufficiency.” Gov’t’s Opp’n at 5. According to the government, “[a]
plain reading of . . . the [ ] Complaint make[s] clear that the [government] intends to demonstrate
at trial that [the claimant] is part of a portfolio of entities owned at least in part by SDGT [ ]
Tajideen, and operated jointly with SDGT Ovlas [ ] and other Tajideen entities.” Id. While the
claimant insists that this reading constitutes, at best, a legal conclusion, see Claimant’s Reply at
3, the Court ultimately agrees with the government that “[t]he alleged sharing of resources,
finances, and personnel is more than enough to prove a beneficial ‘interest of any nature
whatsoever, direct or indirect’ to SDGTs [ ] Tajideen and Ovlas . . . [,]” see Gov’t’s Opp’n at 5
(quoting 31 C.F.R. Part 594.306).
Contrary to the claimant’s position, the Complaint satisfies the applicable standard by
setting forth allegations which adequately present the government’s theory of forfeiture based on
ties between the defendant funds, certain entities—which include the claimant—and SDGTs. A
complaint facing the challenge claimant presents in this case, suffices by “simply alleg[ing]
enough facts so that the claimant may understand the theory of forfeiture, file a responsive
pleading, and undertake an adequate investigation.” United States v. One Gulfstream G-V Jet
Aircraft, 941 F. Supp. 2d 1, 14 (D.D.C. 2013). Indeed, the government need only present
sufficient facts to “support a reasonable belief that it would meet its burden of proof at trial[,]”
$1,071,251.44 of Funds, No. 17-CV-1166-KBJ-GMH, 2018 WL 3949962, at *8, as the
sufficiency standard “is not particularly onerous[,]” id. at *9.
The standard is satisfied here because the government alleges that “[the claimant] is an
entity based in Tema, Ghana[,] and Dubai, United Arab Emirates[,] owned by, controlled by, or
operated for the benefit of, [ ] Tajideen and Ovlas . . . .” The government further alleges that
Ovlas, like Tajideen, is an SDGT and “its daily operations are managed by [other individuals
known as] Ali Jaber and Hussein Jaber.” Compl. ¶ 21; see id. ¶¶ 14, 15. Moreover, the
Complaint indicates that the claimant is one of a “portfolio” of entities working on behalf of
these identified SDGTs. Id. ¶ 22. The Complaint also asserts that the claimant purportedly
“shares resources, finances, personnel, and other interests with” those suspected entities that are
SDGTs or at least have alleged SDGT ties. Id. ¶ 23. These allegations—though not a “complex
theory or extraordinarily detailed set of facts,” as the government concedes, Gov’t’s Opp’n at
5—are not impermissibly conclusory under the applicable standard. The allegations set forth
above (1) directly advise the claimant as to “the theory of forfeiture” (2) enable the claimant to
“file a responsive pleading,” and (3) empower the claimant with the ability to “undertake an
adequate investigation.” See United States v. $37,564,565.25 in Acct. No. XXXXXXXXXXXX
at Morgan Stanley, in Name of Anicorn, LLC, No. 18-CV-2795-CKK, 2019 WL 5269073, at *2
(D.D.C. Oct. 17, 2019). 5
The claimant also argues that the Complaint insufficiently pleads for the forfeiture of
proceeds traceable to a conspiracy and the forfeiture of proceeds traceable to international money
laundering. See Claimant’s Mem. at 11–12. The government responds that these arguments
“improperly conflate the requirements to prove a criminal case with the requirements of a civil
forfeiture.” Gov’t’s Mem. at 7. The Court agrees with the government.
A forfeiture complaint alleging conspiracy is “sufficiently pled” where it “identifies the
alleged conspirators,” “provides a timeline,” “and describes the basic” scheme. See
The claimant’s reliance on the OFAC’s Fifty Percent Rule, see Claimant’s Mem. at 9 (arguing that under the Fifty
Percent Rule, “an entity that is operated or controlled—but not owned [fifty] percent or more—by one or more
blocked persons is not automatically considered a blocked person”), does not pertain to the Court’s analysis at this
stage of the proceedings. Regarding the Fifty Percent Rule, as the government notes, “the ‘rule’ is a guidance tool
for assisting the public to identify designated entities ‘regardless of whether the entity itself is listed in the Annex to
Executive Order 13224, as amended, or designated pursuant to § 594.201(a)[.]’” Gov’t’s Opp’n at 5, n. 2 (quoting
31 C.F.R. Part 594.412). In any event, regardless of the applicability of the Fifty Percent Rule, for the reasons stated
above, the Court is satisfied that the allegations implicating the claimant as acting in concert with SDGTs
demonstrate the sufficiency of the Complaint. Furthermore, the Complaint alleges, see Compl. ¶¶ 11, 29–41, and
the applicable regulations proscribe, “direct or indirect” benefits being provided to blocked persons, see 31 C.F.R.
Additionally,the claimant’s references to the intent element of the underlying criminal violation, id. at 10 (arguing
that “the [g]overnment must allege that any violation of [the Act] was both knowing and willful”), is likewise
irrelevant to the Court’s current considerations. The claimant overlooks that forfeiture proceedings are directed
against the property at issue, and proof of criminal culpability is not a prerequisite. See United States v. Real Prop.
Identified as: Parcel 03179-005R, 287 F. Supp. 2d 45, 62 (D.D.C. 2003) (citing United States v. One “Piper” Aztec
“F” De Luxe Model 250 23 Aircraft Bearing Serial No. 27–7654057, 321 F.3d 355, 360 (3d Cir. 2003); United
States v. All Right, Title & Interest in Real Property & Building Known as 303 West 116th Street, New York, New
York, 901 F.2d 288, 292 (2d Cir. 1990)) (“[A] criminal conviction is not a prerequisite for civil forfeiture.”). In any
event, because the claimant’s criminal intent argument and its Fifty Percent Rule do not detract from the
Complaint’s allegations that “support a reasonable belief that [the government can] meet its burden of proof at trial,”
see $1,071,251.44 of Funds, 2018 WL 3949962, at *8, neither argument disturbs the Court’s conclusion on the
sufficiency of the Complaint.
$37,564,565.25, 2019 WL 5269073, at *8. Furthermore, the government “does not need to
allege facts that demonstrate an explicit agreement; rather ‘[p]roof of a tacit, as opposed to
explicit, understanding is sufficient to show agreement.’” United States v. Sum of $70,990,605, 4
F. Supp. 3d 189, 199–200 (D.D.C. 2014) (alterations in original) (quoting Halberstam v. Welch,
705 F.2d 472, 477 (D.C. Cir. 1983)). Here, the Complaint identifies a pool of alleged
conspirators—specifically, the “portfolio of Ghana-based companies and tradenames operated by
Ali Jaber for the benefit of [ ] Tajideen and Ovlas Trading SA,” including the claimant. Compl.
¶ 22. The Complaint also identifies an alleged scheme from August 2017 involving the
defendant funds that amounted to a violation of the Act commited by these alleged coconspirators. See Compl. ¶¶ 14–15 (describing the SDGT designations), 21–23 (implicating
claimants implication in a group of entities engaging with SDGTs), 24–41 (revealing transfers of
defendant funds in alleged violations of the Act). What is alleged in the Complaint is sufficient
“to support a reasonable belief that the government will be able to meet its burden of proof at
trial” regarding the alleged traceability of the defendant funds to a conspiracy to violate the
Act. See $1,071,251.44 of Funds, 2018 WL 3949962, at *4.
The same is true as to the government’s third claim involving traceability of the
defendant funds to money laundering. The claimant incorrectly insists that “the [t]hird [c]laim
for [f]orfeiture of property traceable to international money laundering must also be dismissed to
the extent it relies on a [ ] violation [of the Act] as the predicate crime because the Complaint
fails to allege a violation of the [the Act].” Claimant’s Mem. at 13. Even assuming that it would
be necessary for a predicate violation of the Act to be established for the money laundering claim
to be proven, the Court has already concluded that the Complaint does sufficiently plead a
violation of the Act. Furthermore, the claimant’s assertion that “each defendant property
transaction cannot simultaneously be both the alleged [ ] violation [of the Act] and the alleged
money laundering violation,” id., misstates the law as construed by this Court in the underlying
matter for this case, see United States v. Tajideen, 319 F.Supp.3d 445, 467-69 (D.D.C. 2018)
(Walton, J.) (“[T]he Court adopts [the Second Circuit’s] conclusion that, contrary to the
defendant's position, § 1956(a)(2) does not require a distinct act of money laundering separate
and apart from the transactions that allegedly violated [the Act] and constituted the [specified
unlawful activity] for money laundering.” (internal quotation marks omitted)).
For the foregoing reasons, the Court concludes that the allegations in the Complaint are
sufficient to plead the government’s forfeiture claims and the claimant’s arguments for dismissal
must be rejected. Therefore, the Court denies the claimant’s motion to dismiss.
SO ORDERED this 3rd day of June, 2021. 6
REGGIE B. WALTON
United States District Judge
The Court will contemporaneously issue an Order consistent with this Memorandum Opinion.
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