A Lebanese businessman, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to violating U.S. sanctions, was released from U.S. federal prison last month and is now back in Lebanon, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons said in a report by Reuters. Kassim Tajideen, 65, was accused of financing Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite group classified as a terrorist group by the U.S. In 2009, Tajideen was designated an important financial supporter of Hezbollah — something he denies. He was extradited to the U.S. after his 2017 arrest in Morocco. And in 2018, he pleaded guilty to charges associated with violating U.S. sanctions and was sentenced to five years in prison.Lebanese Businessman Pleads Guilty of Violating US Sanctions
A Lebanese businessman accused of providing millions of dollars to the Hezbollah militant group pleaded guilty Thursday and admitted his role in a money-laundering conspiracy to evade U.S. sanctions, the Justice Department said.
Kassim Tajideen, 63, of Beirut 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.
According to three Reuters’ sources — a senior official in the Middle East, a senior Lebanese official and a regional diplomat — the release was the result of “indirect understandings” between Tehran and Washington. Two of the three sources said the release was part of a deal that last summer freed Sam Goodwin, a U.S. citizen being held in Syria, and Nizar Zakka, a U.S. permanent resident detained in Iran. A State Department spokesperson said Tajideen was released for health reasons and that reports of a deal were false. The spokesperson said the U.S. government would abide by the court’s decision but opposed the release. The fact that he is being released early doesn’t diminish the severity of his crime, a State Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, on July 8, when Tajideen arrived in Beirut. In May, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., had ordered Tajideen released. Chibli Mallat, Tajideen’s lawyer, called it “a purely judicial operation,” he said. The exact reasons the Lebanese businessman was freed have been sealed. “The release of Tajideen comes within a long path of exchange operations that will happen later on a wide level. There are still those who will be released by the two sides. This operation will continue,” the Middle Eastern official told Reuters. The regional diplomat also described Tajideen’s release as a prelude to further possible deals involving around 20 people. “All parties involved are testing each other as there is zero trust,” the diplomat told Reuters.