A Lebanese businessman who was serving a five-year prison sentence in the US after being accused of financing Hezbollah returned to Beirut yesterday after an early release. Kassim Tajideen was sentenced last year in a federal court in Washington in connection with a money laundering conspiracy aimed at evading US sanctions. He was arrested in Morocco before being extradited to the US in 2017.
Tajideen pleaded guilty in 2018 and had to pay a $50 million fine in addition to the prison sentence, including time already served. Although faced with opposition from the US government, a US judge ordered the 65-year old’s early release in May on compassionate grounds due to the coronavirus pandemic. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo didn’t respond to questions about Tajideen’s release, but said that Washington will continue to impose sanctions on Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.
US has released #Hezbollah’s financier Tajideen two years before his sentence is over.
He arrived in Beirut Lebanon today in what appears to be a major win for the party: pic.twitter.com/m0ZGupaHOR
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) July 8, 2020
Despite his release, Tajideen remains blacklisted by the US Treasury Department as a “specially designated global terrorist”. He maintains that he does not have ties to Hezbollah.
There has been speculation that Tajideen’s release was part of a deal between the US and Hezbollah, because the movement is part of the Lebanese government. This follows the release in March of a Lebanese-American, Amer Fakhoury, who collaborated with Israel during Lebanon’s civil war and ran the notorious Khiam Detention Centre.
The State Department has denied that there was any connection to Fakhoury’s release, who fled from Lebanon after the Israeli withdrawal in 2000 and later settled in the US where he became a naturalised citizen. He was arrested upon arriving in Lebanon in September last year and charged with kidnapping, imprisonment and torturing inmates in Khiam.