AUSTIN (KXAN) - Before his arrest in a notorious Downtown Austin nightclub raid last month, Nizar "Nino" Hakiki, 32, worked very closely with government officials – even the U.S. Army – on a daily basis.
Now facing serious drug and firearm charges, he sits in jail without bond as federal prosecutors lay out their case against him and at least nine other suspects.
Beginning in July 2009, Hakiki worked as an interpreter, supporting the Army's 7th Engineer Battalion during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His duties included translating training material for the Iraqi Army, as well as translating news reports for battalion leaders.
Army records obtained by KXAN News detail Hakiki – now accused of dealing cocaine with Steve Yassine, the brother of Austin nightclub owner Mike Yassine – as "extremely intelligent" and "extremely marketable" in his work as a civilian contractor for Global Linguist Solutions Company.
"He has done an exceptional job ... proving his leadership skills and the ability to handle combat stress and incredible workload supporting over 11,000 U.S. and coalition troops throughout Iraq," said Col. Frederick Brown, recommending Hakiki for further work within the unit in 2009.
Documents show he speaks Arabic, English, French, Spanish, and more than 12 North African Middle Eastern dialects, including Iraqi and Moroccan. In a detention order shortly after his arrest, a judge denied his bond, noting Hakiki could flee to Morocco.
"(Hakiki) has strong familial ties to Morocco and travels there frequently," the order stated.
Hakiki used his experience and additional Army recommendations when applying for a job in 2010 at a state agency – the Texas Facilities Commission – where he was employed even after his arrest.
"People who worked with him thought it was pretty shocking," said Kay Molina, the agency's spokeswoman, who said Hakiki – who worked in the records and mail division most recently - was cut from payroll on March 31. He began in risk management nearly a year and a half before on August 2, 2010.
Molina said Hakiki had passed a criminal background check with "flying colors." However, she also recalled a recent trip Hakiki made to Morocco.
"I believe he had just gone to a wedding there around Christmas," she said.
In hearings over the last week, federal agents have detailed an undercover operation involving a confidential source used to arrange at least two cocaine sales between Steve Yassine and Hakiki.
Hakiki's official charges are: conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, distribution of cocaine and transferring a firearm knowing it is to be used in a drug trafficking crime.
Court records show prosecutors believed Hakiki to be a danger to others, because he allegedly "spoke about how a firearm in one of the alleged transactions was good to hurt someone up close."
Agents said the money made from those deals was then funneled through the eight nightclubs owned by Yassine's brother, Mike – who is also a suspect in this money-laundering, drug, and firearm investigation.
Agents said the money also went through Famous Vodka, owned by Hadi Yassine, a third brother.
Prior to his work in Iraq, Hakiki was employed at Keller Williams Realty in Austin for around four years. His attorney did not return a call from KXAN.
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