Oct 18, 2012
In the Southern District of New York federal court, Manssor Arbabsiar, aka Mansour Arbabsiar, pleaded guilty to participating in a plot to murder the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States on U.S. soil. It was revealed that Arbabsiar is a naturalized U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports. He was arrested on Sept. 29, 2011, at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and he pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan.
The superseding information charged Arbabsiar with three counts; Count one involved traveling for foreign commerce and using interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire. Count two charges Arbabsiar with conspiring to do so and count three charges him with conspiring to commit an offense against the United States, namely, an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries.
The defendant now faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison (10 years on counts one and two, and five years on count three) and Judge Keenan will sentence him on Jan. 23, 2013.
Arbabsiar admitted that he conspired with officials in the Iranian military, based in Iran, to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador while the Ambassador was in the United States. According to Arbabsiar, on several occasions in 2011 he traveled to Mexico in order to arrange the assassination. Arbabsiar also admitted that his co-conspirators approved the hiring of a drug cartel member, who turned out to be an undercover DEA agent, to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador. The cost of the murder-for hire was $1.5 million. A $100,000 down payment was wire transferred in two installments.
“A little more than a year after his arrest, Manssor Arbabsiar has admitted to his role in a deadly plot approved by members of the Iranian military to assassinate a sitting foreign Ambassador on U.S. soil,” said Department of Justice Attorney General Eric Holder. “Today’s plea and the disruption of this plot should serve as a reminder of the exceptional efforts of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies in protecting America against terrorist attacks and in holding accountable those who plan such actions.”
The plot-to-murder scheme underscores the fact that America and its allies remain threatened from acts of terrorism.
“Thanks to the collaborative efforts of many U.S. law enforcement and intelligence professionals, this international assassination plot hatched in Iran was thwarted before anyone was harmed and a key conspirator has pleaded guilty. This case underscores the evolving threat environment we face and the need for continued vigilance at home and abroad,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco.
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, “Arbabsiar told agents that his cousin, who he had long understood to be a senior member of the Qods Force, had approached him in the early spring of 2011 about recruiting narco-traffickers to kidnap the Ambassador. Arbabsiar told agents that he then met with CS-1 (undercover agent) in Mexico and discussed assassinating the Ambassador. Arbabsiar said that, afterwards, he met several times in Iran with Gholam Shakuri, aka ‘Ali Gholam Shakuri,’ a co-conspirator and Iran-based member of the Qods Force, and another senior Qods Force official, where Arbabsiar explained that the plan was to blow up a restaurant in the United States frequented by the Ambassador and that numerous bystanders would be killed. The plan was approved by these officials (sic).”
Court documents show the defendant willingly worked with the government to ensnare his co-conspirators. After his arrest in October 2011, “Arbabsiar made phone calls at the direction of law enforcement to Shakuri in Iran that were monitored,” according to the DEA. Shakuri confirmed that Arbabsiar should move forward with the murder plot and that it should be accomplished as quickly as possible. On Oct. 5, 2011, “[j]ust do it quickly, it’s late…” Shakuri also told Arbabsiar that he would consult with his superiors about whether they would be willing to pay undercover DEA agent more money. Shakuri, who was also charged in the plot, remains at large.
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