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Press Release

U.S. Attorney Announces Extradition Of Organized Crime Leader Charged With A Murder Plot Directed From Iran Targeting A Journalist

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Merrick B. Garland, the Attorney General of the United States; and Christopher A. Wray, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the extradition of POLAD OMAROV, a/k/a “Araz Aliyev,” a/k/a “Polad Qaqa,” a/k/a “Haci Qaqa,” from the Czech Republic on murder-for-hire and money laundering charges contained in a Superseding Indictment.  The case is pending before U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon.  OMAROV was arrested in the Czech Republic on January 4, 2023, at the request of the United States, arrived in the Southern District of New York on February 21, 2024, and will be arraigned on the charges in the Superseding Indictment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave later today.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Polad Omarov is alleged to have brazenly attempted to murder an outspoken critic of Iran’s human rights abuses – right here on American soil.  The audacious alleged plot to kidnap and murder the victim are indicative of Iran’s policies of aggressive suppression and violence against anyone who speaks against them.  Today’s extradition makes clear our unwavering resolve to charge and bring to justice any individuals attempting to stifle free speech in the U.S., especially at the behest of a malign foreign regime.”

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said: “Last year, I announced charges against three defendants for their roles in a conspiracy to murder a U.S. citizen who has long been targeted by the Government of Iran.  At the time of the announcement, two of the defendants were in U.S. custody, and we said that the long arm of the law would find and bring to justice those who seek to threaten, silence, or harm American citizens.  Today, we have done just that.  The third defendant, Polad Omarov, was extradited to the United States to face charges for attempting to murder on U.S. soil a journalist, author, and human rights activist who is a U.S. citizen of Iranian origin.  We are grateful to our Czech government counterparts for this extradition.  The Department of Justice will not tolerate attempts by an authoritarian regime to undermine the rights to which every American citizen is entitled.”

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said: “With today’s extradition of Omarov, we have taken a significant step forward to hold Iranian actors accountable for their brazen plot to assassinate a U.S. citizen on American soil.  I am honored to be here in Prague today to thank our Czech law enforcement, intelligence, and prosecutor partners for their collaboration and commitment to upholding the rule of law.”

According to the allegations contained in the Superseding Indictment, other court filings, and statements made during court proceedings:[1]

OMAROV, a leader within an Eastern European organized crime group (the “Organization”), worked with other members of the Organization to attempt to murder a U.S. citizen of Iranian origin (the “Victim”) on instructions from individuals in Iran.  The Victim previously has been the target of plots by the Government of Iran to intimidate, harass, and kidnap the Victim.  The Victim is a journalist, author, and human rights activist who has publicized the Government of Iran’s human rights abuses and suppression of political expression, including in connection with continuing protests against the regime across Iran.  As recently as 2020 and 2021, Iranian intelligence officials and assets plotted to kidnap the Victim from within the United States for rendition to Iran in an effort to silence the Victim’s criticism of the regime. 

Beginning in approximately mid-July 2022, OMAROV’s co-defendant, RAFAT AMIROV, a leader within the Organization residing in Iran, sent targeting information – which AMIROV had received from other individuals in Iran – about the Victim and the Victim’s residence to OMAROV.  OMAROV, in turn, communicated the targeting information to co-defendant KHALID MEHDIYEV, a leader within the Organization residing in Yonkers, New York, in order to begin conducting surveillance of the Victim and reconnaissance of the Victim’s residence and surrounding neighborhood.  MEHDIYEV sent photographs and videos of the Victim’s residence to OMAROV for further sharing with AMIROV and the plot’s orchestrators in Iran. 

After MEHDIYEV’s initial surveillance of the Victim’s residence, AMIROV and OMAROV arranged for the delivery of a $30,000 cash payment to MEHDIYEV in New York City in furtherance of the plot.  MEHDIYEV used a portion of this cash payment to buy an AK-47-style assault rifle manufactured in China, along with two magazines for ammunition and at least 66 rounds.  MEHDIYEV bragged in electronic communications that he had procured for himself a “war machine.”

Between July 20 and 28, 2022, MEHDIYEV repeatedly travelled to the Victim’s neighborhood to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance, sending reports of the Victim’s activities, photographs, and videos to OMAROV for further distribution to AMIROV.  On July 24, 2022, after arriving at the Victim’s residence, MEHDIYEV reported to OMAROV that MEHDIYEV was “at the crime scene.”  OMAROV encouraged MEHDIYEV, “You are a man!”  MEHDIYEV described to OMAROV that “we blocked it from both sides, it will be a show once she steps out of the house.”  OMAROV forwarded this report to AMIROV, who responded, “God willing.”

MEHDIYEV was unable to carry out the assassination that day and returned on several subsequent days to seek out opportunities to complete the murder mission.  AMIROV, OMAROV, and MEHDIYEV schemed different strategies to attempt to draw the Victim out, including by attempting to ask the Victim for flowers from the Victim’s garden.  On July 28, 2022, MEHDIYEV sent OMAROV a video taken from inside the car MEHDIYEV was driving showing the assault rifle, along with the message that “we are ready.”  The Victim, after observing suspicious activity outside the residence, left the area, and MEHDIYEV drove away shortly afterwards.  After MEHDIYEV drove away from the Victim’s residence, he was stopped after a traffic violation, and during a subsequent search of the car, police officers found the assault rifle, 66 rounds of ammunition, approximately $1,100 in cash, and a black ski mask.

*                *                *

OMAROV, 39, of Georgia, has been charged with: (i) murder-for-hire, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; (ii) conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; and (iii) conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. 

The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by Judge McMahon.

AMIROV, 45, of Iran, and MEHDIYEV, 25, of Yonkers, New York, were previously arrested on the charges contained in the Superseding Indictment.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI and its New York Field Office Counterintelligence Division and the New York FBI Iran Threat Task Force.  Mr. Williams also thanked the New York Field Office Criminal Division, the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) and the NYPD Intelligence Bureau, and the Department of Justice’s National Security Division for their assistance.  The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs provided critical assistance in securing OMAROV’s arrest and extradition.  Mr. Williams also appreciates the significant cooperation and assistance provided by authorities in the Czech Republic.

This case is being handled by the Office’s National Security and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacob H. Gutwillig, Matthew J.C. Hellman, and Michael D. Lockard are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney Christopher Rigali of the National Security Division, Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

The charges in the Superseding Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the Superseding Indictment and the description of the Superseding Indictment set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.


Nicholas Biase, Lauren Scarff
(212) 637-2600

Updated February 21, 2024

National Security
Press Release Number: 24-062