The federal government has an indictment in hand against two people it accuses of defrauding the U.S. military out of millions of dollars on a refueling tankers contract let by a unit on Arsenal Island.
One of those men, U.S. citizen Jeff Mazon, is awaiting trial. But the second man remains at large months later.
The reason? Ali Hijazi, a citizen of Lebanon, lives in Kuwait. And there is no extradition treaty between the United States and Kuwait.
“Whether Hijazi will be extradited to the United States to face criminal charges here is, as a practical matter, subject to the discretion of Kuwaiti authorities,” court documents state.
So far, the Kuwaitis are siding with Hijazi, who was arrested and released on bond by a Kuwaiti judge. Prosecutors, who declined comment when contacted by the Quad-City Times, hope to change the Kuwaitis minds, according to court documents.
But a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service said an extradition request can be made only for a U.S. or naturalized citizen.
The case is receiving international attention because it involves Halliburton, the company that formerly employed Vice President Dick Cheney and has come under fire for its contracts with the U.S. government. As of June, the case already had generated more than 600,000 pages of legal discovery.
It is filed in U.S. District Court, Rock Island, because the contract with which Mazon and Hijazi were involved was with Kellogg, Brown & Root Services, a subsidiary of Halliburton, and the Army Field Support Command, whose headquarters is on Arsenal Island.
The charges were the first fraud counts to be filed against an employee of the Halliburton subsidiary.
The indictments allege that Mazon, a former employee of KBR, conspired with Hijazi, a managing partner for Kuwait-based La Nouvelle General Trading and Contracting, to pad a contract to provide fuel tankers for U.S. military operations. The fraud totaled $3.5 million.
Hijazi, who is represented by Christopher Bartolomucci, former counsel for the Bush administration and a co-worker of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, argues that he is not a fugitive because he is a foreign citizen and resident. He has asked a federal judge to dismiss the case. However, the judge has declined to rule on that motion until after Hijazi appears in court to be arraigned on the charges.
“The fact that Hijazi has declined to travel to the United states to face criminal charges here ... does not turn him into a fugitive,” state court documents filed by Hijazi’s attorneys. “As a foreign citizen and resident, Hijazi has no legal obligation to be present in, or travel to, the United States. On the contrary, he has every right to remain in Kuwait. His mere absence from the United States does not make him a fugitive.”
Mazon’s trial date has not yet been set. He has pleaded innocent.
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