US sanctions 2 Iranian officials over ex-FBI agent's disappearance

Updated December 15, 2020

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Washington, Dec 15 (IANS) The US Treasury Department has designated two senior officials of Irans Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), who were involved in the 2007 abduction of former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Robert Levinson.

In a statement on Monday, the Department said the two designated officials, Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai, "acted in their capacity as MOIS officers in the abduction, detention, and probable death of Levinson".

Levinson went missing from Iran's Kish Island in 2007. Media reports have said the the Central Intelligence Agency had paid him to gather intelligence inside Iran.

Iran has repeatedly denied it is holding the American.

According to the Department statement, Baseri is involved in counter-espionage activities in and outside of Iran, who has been involved in sensitive investigations related to Iranian national security issues.

"Baseri has worked directly with intelligence officials from other countries in order to harm US interests," it said.

The Department said that Khazai meanwhile, has led MOIS delegations to other countries to assess the security situation.

"The abduction of Levinson in Iran is an outrageous example of the Iranian regime's willingness to commit unjust acts," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was quoted as saying in the statement.

"The US will always prioritize the safety and security of the American people and will continue to aggressively pursue those who played a role in Levinson's detention and probable death," he added.

Also in the statement, FBI Director Christopher Wray claimed that the Iranian government had "pledged to provide assistance in bringing Levinson home, but it has never followed through".

"The truth is that Iranian intelligence officers with the approval of senior Iranian officials were involved in Levinson's abduction and detention," Wray said.

"While no one should be as cruelly treated as Levinson was, this situation is personal because he served as a special agent for 22 years and will always be a part of the FBI family."

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