A Lebanese businessman serving a five-year sentence in the United States for providing millions of dollars to the militant Hezbollah 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 U.S. sanctions. He was arrested in Morocco and extradited to the U.S. in 2017, where he was charged with laundering money for Hezbollah.
There was no immediate comment from U.S. or Lebanese officials on his early release.
Lebanon’s National News Agency reported Tajideen’s arrival. A local Lebanese media station, LBC, broadcast a video taken with a mobile phone of his arrival at the Beirut airport. He stepped out of 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 U.S. 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 U.S. businesses, in violation of sanctions that barred him from doing business with U.S. 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 a Lebanese-American held in the country for nearly six months on charges of working for an Israeli-backed militia two decades ago. Amer Fakhoury’s release raised speculation that Tajideen may be granted early release in return.
Fakhoury, 57, who had faced decades-old murder and torture charges in Lebanon, became a U.S. citizen last year, and is now a restaurant owner in Dover, New Hampshire. U.S. officials had called for imposing sanctions on Lebanon to pressure Beirut to release him.