U.S. Imposes Iran-Related Sanctions Over FBI Agent 2007 Disappearance

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a news conference in Tehran, Iran December 14, 2020. (Official Presidential website/Handout via REUTERS)

The United States on Monday blacklisted two Iranian officials who it accused of involvement in the March 2007 disappearance of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who the United States believes was abducted in Iran and died in captivity.

In announcing that it had imposed sanctions on Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, U.S. officials told reporters that their public identification would lead to further information about Levinson.

“The abduction of Mr. Levinson in Iran is an outrageous example of the Iranian regime’s willingness to commit unjust acts,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

No agreement should ever be struck with Iran without its freeing all unjustly detained U.S. citizens, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.

A second U.S. official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the United States believed the senior Iranian officials had sanctioned the abduction of Levinson, who went missing on Iran’s Kish Island in the Gulf in March 2007. This official said he hoped the naming of the two Iranian officials, who were separately identified by the U.S. Treasury Department, would lead to further information about Levinson’s fate.

As a result of the sanctions, all property of the two men falling under U.S. jurisdiction must be blocked and U.S. persons are generally barred from dealing with them. Non-U.S. persons risk being blacklisted for dealing with them and foreign banks could be punished for knowingly facilitating a significant transaction for them.

In a conference call, U.S. officials said all evidence the United States has gathered so far indicates that Levinson, who went missing on Iran’s Kish Island in the Gulf in 2007, likely died in captivity.

At least three U.S. citizens are currently detained by Iran: Baquer Namazi, his son Siamak Namazi, and Morad Tahbaz.