Lebanese Hezbollah fighters parade during a press tour in the southern Lebanese village of Aaramta, on May 21, 2023, ahead of the anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. (AFP)

US releases and deports alleged Hezbollah financier to Lebanon

“I would be proud to send money to Hezbollah,” Hammoud said in one video, sitting in front of a portrait of Iran’s supreme leader, Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, and the slain Qassem Soleimani.

Lebanese Hezbollah fighters parade during a press tour in the southern Lebanese village of Aaramta, on May 21, 2023, ahead of the anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. (AFP)

The US has released an alleged Hezbollah financier 23 years after he was sentenced to life in prison for funneling money to the Iran-backed group and leading a cigarette smuggling ring throughout the United States and Canada.

Mohamad Youssef Hammoud, initially sentenced to 155 years, was serving a 30-year prison term.

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It is unclear why he was released ahead of schedule. Al Arabiya English has contacted the US Justice Department and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for comment.

He was seen being carried on the shoulders of friends and family upon arriving in Beirut on Wednesday. Shortly after landing, Hammoud had multiple interviews with Hezbollah-affiliated media outlets.

Hammoud vehemently denied accusations that he sent money to Hezbollah. “I would be proud to send money to Hezbollah, and I could say I sent money to Hezbollah. But in 1999… I did not send a penny to Lebanon,” he said in one video, sitting in front of a portrait of Iran’s supreme leader, Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, and the slain Qassem Soleimani.

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