Today, the Department of Justice is announcing charges against two people who allegedly attempted to carry out a deadly plot that was directed by factions of the Iranian government to assassinate a foreign ambassador here in the United States.
Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen who holds an Iranian passport and was arrested last month in New York, is accused of working with members of an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to devise an international murder-for-hire scheme targeting the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States.
According to the complaint filed today in the Southern District of New York, Arbabsiar is alleged to have orchestrated a $1.5 million assassination plot with Gholam Shakuri, an Iranian-based member of the Qods Force, and other Iranian co-conspirators.
The Qods Force is a unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. It is also suspected of sponsoring attacks against the Coalition Forces in Iraq and was designated by the Department of Treasury in 2007 for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.
The complaint alleges that this conspiracy was conceived, sponsored and directed from Iran and constitutes a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law, including a convention that explicitly protects diplomats from being harmed. In addition to holding these individual conspirators accountable for their alleged role in this plot, the United States is committed to holding Iran accountable for its actions.
Arbabsiar and Shakuri are charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism, among other charges. Arbabsiar has been in custody since September 29, 2011, while Shakuri – based in Iran – remains at large.
According to the complaint, earlier this spring Arbabsiar met with a confidential informant from the Drug Enforcement Administration who was posing as an associate of a violent international drug trafficking cartel.
The meeting, which took place in May in Mexico, was the first of a series that would result in an international conspiracy by elements of the Iranian government to pay the informant $1.5 million to murder the Ambassador on U.S. soil, according to documents we filed today in court.
According to the complaint, those discussions led Arbabsiar - with Shakuri’s approval - to facilitate the wiring of approximately $100,000 into a bank account in the United States as a down payment for the attempted assassination.
The complaint also states that in the days since the defendant’s arrest, he has confessed to his participation in the alleged plot as well as provided other valuable information about elements of the Iranian government’s role in it.
The disruption of this alleged plot marks a significant achievement by our law enforcement and intelligence agencies as well as the close cooperation of our partners in the Mexican government.
I want to commend the outstanding work of the agencies involved in this investigation, including the FBI and Director Mueller, who is here with me today, and the DEA.
Their agents and analysts worked closely with prosecutors here at the Department’s National Security Division as well as in the Southern District of New York over these many months to monitor this alleged conspiracy, obtain valuable information and bring one of the primary plotters to justice. Thank you for your remarkable work.
Now, I’d like to turn it over to Director Mueller.