Robert Levinson was last seen alive in 2011.
May 15, 2018
by WorldTribune Staff
A Russian oligarch who is now a witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation spent millions of dollars in an attempt to rescue an American held hostage in Iran at the time Mueller was director of the FBI, a report said.
Details of the FBI’s 2009 deal with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to help rescue retired FBI and DEA agent Robert Levinson from Iran were recounted in a May 14 column by John Solomon for The Hill.
Deripaska’s ties to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort have brought him under the scrutiny of Mueller’s investigators.
Levinson, who remains missing, was last seen alive in 2011.
“Though Iran has never admitted it, Levinson was believed to be held in a secret government prison there after his disappearance,” the Daily Mail said in a May 15 report.
Andrew McCabe, the recently-fired FBI deputy director, was one of Deripaska’s early FBI contacts, sources told Solomon.
Deripaska’s lawyer told Solomon that the Russian spent $25 million assembling a private search and rescue team working with Iranian contacts in an effort to free Levinson.
Robyn Gritz, a retired agent who supervised the Levinson case in 2009, told Solomon: “I kept Director Mueller and Deputy Director [John] Pistole informed of the various efforts and operations.”
The State Department, then under Hillary Clinton, reportedly blocked a deal for Levinson’s return from going through, Gritz said.
“We tried to turn over every stone we could to rescue Bob, but every time we started to get close, the State Department seemed to always get in the way,” Gritz told Solomon.
David McGee, a former federal prosecutor who represents Levinson’s family, told Solomon that “Deripaska’s efforts came very close to success. We were told at one point that the terms of Levinson’s release had been agreed to by Iran and the U.S. and included a statement by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pointing a finger away from Iran. At the last minute, Secretary Clinton decided not to make the agreed-on statement.”
Mueller’s spokesman declined to comment to Solomon, as did McCabe and the State Department.
Where Is Robert Levinson? Inside the Secret Campaign to Find Ex-FBI Agent Who Disappeared on Mission to Iran
March 8, 2019
by Jeff Stein
The plans were ready; the $250,000 payoff cash was committed. On December 10, 2018, a former Air Force intelligence officer named Bob Kent was planning to board a plane in New York for the Middle East on a most improbable secret mission: freeing Robert Levinson from Iran.
Levinson, an ex–FBI agent well into a second career as a private detective, had disappeared over a decade earlier from a hotel on Iran’s Kish Island. He had been seen only twice since then, first in a hostage video his family received from unknown intermediaries in 2010, then in photos three years later, showing the then-63-year-old increasingly haggard and begging for help.
At first, the U.S. government claimed it had no knowledge of why Levinson, an expert on Russian organized crime, had gone to Iran. The Iranian regime denied it was holding him. But in 2013, the Associated Press and other news outlets revealed that the ex-agent had gone to Kish on an off-the-books CIA mission to probe high-level Iranian money laundering.
To the Levinson family, that explained why the government had not adequately pursued his release over the years, or in a prisoner swap the Obama administration conducted with Iran: He was an embarrassment to both the FBI and CIA. The possibility also existed that rival factions in Iran had not been able to agree on his release after years of denying it had him.
Desperate, the family put its own plans in motion to win his release. In doing so, they shared the plight of scores of families whose loved ones had been snatched by the Iranians (or Hezbollah, their Lebanese proxy) over the decades, including, at present, four other Americans and a U.S. permanent resident held by Iran. Levinson’s past FBI employment, and then revelations of his murky CIA mission, lent his case more gravity, of course, not to mention mystery. But in 2013, Levinson earned yet another dubious distinction: He became the longest held U.S. hostage in American history.
March 9 will mark the 12th anniversary of his disappearance.