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US Adds Four Iranian Operatives to Sanctions List

US Adds Four Iranian Operatives to Sanctions List

Saturday, 4 September, 2021 - 05:00
The United States Department of the Treasury is seen in Washington, DC, US, August 30, 2020. (Reuters)

The United States has sanctioned four Iranian intelligence operatives behind a failed plot to kidnap an Iranian-American journalist and human rights activist, the US Treasury Department said Friday.


The sanctions come after US prosecutors in July charged the four with plotting to kidnap the New York-based journalist who was critical of Tehran, whom Reuters previously confirmed was journalist Masih Alinejad.


In July, Alinejad was victim of the failed plot and she was placed under the protection of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents who had uncovered the plan.


“The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is designating four Iranian intelligence operatives who targeted a US citizen in the United States and Iranian dissidents in other countries as part of a wide-ranging campaign to silence critics of the Iranian government,” read a Treasury statement.


“Senior intelligence official Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani led a network that plotted the kidnapping of a US journalist and human rights activist, a failed plot that led to the indictment of members of the network in late July,” it continued.


“Consistent with the well-documented role of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) in domestic repression, this operation demonstrates the pernicious role of Iran’s intelligence apparatus in targeting Iranians abroad, to include brazen attempts to return dissidents to Iran.”


Senior Iran-based intelligence official Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani leads a network of intelligence operatives, including Mahmoud Khazein, Kiya Sadeghi, and Omid Noori, tasked with targeting Iranian dissidents in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates.


Farahani, Khazein, Sadeghi, and Noori planned the abduction of a New York City-based Iranian-American activist by utilizing the services of a private investigator to conduct surveillance on the victim and laundered money from Iran to the United States to pay for this surveillance.


Sadeghi acted as the network’s primary point of contact with the private investigator in the United States and researched options to abduct the victim via military-style speedboats out of New York City for transport to Venezuela.


Noori facilitated payment to the investigator, while Khazein researched travel routes from the victim’s residence to potential exfiltration points.


Farahani, Khazein, Sadeghi, and Noori have been indicted in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York for conspiracy related to kidnapping, sanctions violations, bank and wire fraud, and money laundering.


“The Iranian government’s kidnapping plot is another example of its continued attempt to silence critical voices, wherever they may be,” said Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, Andrea M. Gacki. “Targeting dissidents abroad demonstrates that the government’s repression extends far beyond Iran’s borders.”


The United States will continue to hold accountable authoritarian governments that resort to transnational repression, whether to target dissidents, journalists, or opposition leaders. These actions threaten the rules-based international order and undermine collective peace and security.


The sanctions block all property of the four Iranians in the United States or in US control and prohibits any transactions between them and US citizens. Other non-Americans who conduct certain transactions with the four could also be subjected to US sanctions, the department added.


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