Home > 2003-2007 from USA, Iran > Mystery of missing FBI agent in Iran deepens

Mystery of missing FBI agent in Iran deepens

April 20, 2007

By Guy Dinmore in Washington, FT

Published: April 20 2007

The mystery surrounding a former FBI agent who disappeared while visiting Iran last month deepened on Thursday after Iranian authorities officially notified the US that they had no information about him.

Sean McCormack, US state department spokesman, said Iran had sent a brief response to US inquiries through the usual Swiss diplomatic channels on Wednesday, stating that Iran had no record concerning the whereabouts of Robert Levinson.

However, Mr McCormack added that the department had assured itself “to a great degree” that Mr Levinson, a 59-year-old private investigator and expert on organised crime who used to work for the FBI, was in fact in Iran.

Associates of Mr Levinson fear he is the unwitting victim of an undeclared tit-for-tat series of hostage-taking between the US and Iran that began when the US seized five Iranian officials in northern Iraq in January.

The Financial Times last week quoted Dawud Salahuddin, an American fugitive living in Iran since 1980, as saying he met Mr Levinson on March 8 on the Iranian island of Kish, where they registered a room in the Maryam Hotel. Mr Salahuddin said he was detained that evening and released the next day, but did not see Mr Levinson again.

Joseph Trento, writing for the National Security News Service, a non-profit Washington news organisation, quoted unnamed CIA sources as saying that Iran wanted to trade Mr Levinson for Ali Reza Asgari, a former Iranian general who disappeared in Turkey this year. The CIA denies all knowledge of Mr Asgari’s whereabouts.

Mr Trento, who met Mr Salahuddin in 1995, quoted the fugitive as saying he had called Mr Levinson’s family in Florida. He also said he had since learned that Mr Levinson was safe in Iranian custody.

Mr Salahuddin, who is wanted for murder in the US, told the FT earlier that Mr Levinson wanted him to help arrange contacts with the Iranian authorities to discuss issues concerning cigarette smuggling.

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