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A senior vice-president at a global internet marketing firm has pleaded guilty to a wire fraud case in which he illegally paid $6m into an IT shell company.

Hicham Kabbaj worked for over four years at affiliate marketing giant Rakuten Marketing, formerly known as Rakuten LinkShare and part of the Japanese multi-national e-commerce firm.

From 2015, he held positions there as director of operations, VP of global technical operations, SVP of technical operations and then SVP of tech ops and engineering, according to his LinkedIn profile.

However, from at least August 2015 until at least May 2019, Kabbaj was defrauding his employer by issuing invoices in the name of a shell company he created, Interactive Systems, for fictitious products and services such as firewalls and servers, according to the Department of Justice.

The resulting payments, amounting to more than $6m in total, were subsequently transferred to his personal accounts.

“Today, Mr Kabbaj pled guilty to a serious felony because he chose to misuse his position of trust as a corporate executive to steal company funds for his own personal gain,” said Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) special agent in charge, Jonathan Larsen.

“As a result of the dedicated work of IRS-CI special agents, along with our partners at the US Attorney’s Office, Mr Kabbaj will face the consequences of his crime when he is sentenced by a federal judge.”

Kabbaj, 48, of Floral Park, New York, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars. He has handed over homes in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and Hewitt, New Jersey, as “property traceable to the offense,” and will pay over $6m in restitution.

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