The FBI and US Government have offered $US25 million for information about Robert Levinson. (AP: Manuel Balce Ceneta, file)
Iran has acknowledged for the first time it has an open case into the 2007 disappearance of a former FBI agent on an unauthorised CIA mission to the country, renewing questions over what happened to him.
- FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in 2007 while working in Iran
- It is not known when Iran opened the investigation into Mr Levinson
- A $US25 million bounty has been offered for information about him
In a filing to the United Nations, Iran said the case over Robert Levinson was “ongoing,” but did not elaborate.
It was not immediately clear how long the case had been open, nor the circumstances by which it started.
However, it comes amid a renewed push to find him with an offer of $US20 million ($29 million) for information from the Trump administration amid heightened tensions between the Rouhani administration and the US over Tehran’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.
The bounty is in addition to the $US5 million earlier offered by the FBI.
According to Iran’s filing to the UN’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, “Mr Robert Alan Levinson has an ongoing case in the Public Prosecution and Revolutionary Court of Tehran”.
The case is being investigated through Iran’s Revolutionary Court, which typically handles espionage cases and others involving smuggling, blasphemy and attempts to overthrow its Islamic government.
Several Westerners and Iranian dual nationals with ties to the West have found themselves tried and convicted in closed-door trials in these courts, only later to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations.
Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment and its state media has not acknowledged the case.
Mr Levinson disappeared from Iran’s Kish Island on March 9, 2007.
For years, US officials would only say that Mr Levinson — an FBI investigator credited with busting Russian and Italian mobsters — was working for a private firm on his trip.
In December 2013, it was revealed that Mr Levinson in fact had been on a mission for CIA analysts who had no authority to run spy operations.
Mr Levinson’s family had received a $US2.5 million annuity from the CIA in order to stop a lawsuit revealing details of his work, while the agency forced out three veteran analysts and disciplined seven others.
Since his disappearance, photos and video of Mr Levinson have emerged in 2010 and 2011, in which he appeared gaunt and bearded with long hair, wearing an orange jumpsuit similar to those worn by detainees at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay.
The video, with a Pashtun wedding song popular in Afghanistan playing in the background, showed Mr Levinson complaining of poor health.
Rumours about him have circulated for years, with one account claiming he was locked up in a Tehran prison run by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and US officials suggesting he may not be in Iran at all.
Dawud Salahuddin, an American fugitive living in Iran and wanted for the assassination of a former Iranian diplomat in Maryland in 1980, is the last known person to have seen Mr Levinson before his disappearance.
Iran has offered a series of contradictory statements about Mr Levinson in the time since.
It asked the UN group to close its investigation into Mr Levinson in February, saying “no proof has been presented by the claimant in this case to prove the presence of the aforesaid in Iran’s detention centres”.