A Lebanese businessman serving a five-year sentence in the United States for providing millions of dollars to the Hezbollah terror group arrived Wednesday in Beirut after his early release, local media reported.
Kassim Tajideen was sentenced last year in a federal court in Washington for his role in a money laundering conspiracy aimed at evading US sanctions. He was arrested in Morocco and extradited to the US in 2017, where he was he was charged with laundering money for Hezbollah.
There was no immediate comment from US or Lebanese officials on his early release.
Lebanon’s National News Agency reported Tajideen’s arrival. A local Lebanese TV station, LBC, broadcast a video taken with a cellphone of his arrival at the Beirut airport. He stepped out of a small jet, wearing a face mask as a necessary coronavirus precaution. The video shows a man rushing toward Tajideen, hugging him and stooping down to Tajideen’s feet in celebration of his release.
A Washington federal judge had ordered the release of Tajideen in May. The National, an English-language newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, said the 64-year-old Tajideen was granted compassionate release due to health conditions and fears of coronavirus infections in prison. The US Department of Justice had contested the release.
Tajideen was accused of conspiring with at least five other people to conduct over $50 million in transactions with US businesses, in violation of sanctions that barred him from doing business with US nationals and companies because of his support for Hezbollah. Washington has designated the Iran-backed Hezbollah a terrorist group.
Tajideen pleaded guilty last December and agreed to forfeit $50 million.
In March, a Lebanese military tribunal ordered the release of Amer Fakhoury, a Lebanese-American held in the country for nearly six months on charges of allegedly tortured prisoners at a jail run by an Israel-backed Lebanese militia two decades ago. He has denied the charges.
Fakhoury’s release amid unclear circumstances raised speculation that Tajideen may be granted early release in return.
Fakhoury, 57, became a US citizen last year, and is a restaurant owner in Dover, New Hampshire.
US officials had called for imposing sanctions on Lebanon to pressure Beirut to release him.
A senior US official, speaking to reporters in March on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said there was no deal made to secure Fakhoury’s release. The official ruled out the possibility that a promise was made to send aid or to release Lebanese prisoners held in the US.
The official also denied Washington was in talks with Hezbollah.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.