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Press Release



DEA informant approached in terror scheme

DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart today announced that announced that MANSSOR ARBABSIAR, a/k/a “Mansour Arbabsiar,” was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 25 years in prison for participating in a plot to murder the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the U.S., while the Ambassador was in the U.S.

ARBABSIAR, a 58 – year-old naturalized U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports, was arrested on September 29, 2011 at John F. Kennedy International Airport. He pled guilty on October 17, 2012 to one count of murder-for hire, one count of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, and one count of conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries before U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan, who also imposed today’s sentence.

This case started when Arbabsiar approached a DEA informant in Mexico in an attempt to hatch this act of terror. To read more about Arbabsiar’s arrest in 2011 click here:

“As DEA has repeatedly shown, terrorists often look to drug trafficking to finance their violent, deadly pursuits,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Our intelligence and operational capabilities and our vast network of informants across the globe enabled us to thwart this terror plot before it could materialize. As a result of DEA’s decisive action and the work of our partners, we are safer here and abroad, and Mr. Arbabsiar’s terror scheme will never become a reality.”

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “Manssor Arbabsiar was an enemy among

us – the key conduit for, and facilitator of, a nefarious international plot concocted by members

of the Iranian military to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States and as many

innocent bystanders as necessary to get the job done. And but for the vigilance of our FBI and

DEA partners, his plot, and the unspeakable harm it would have caused, may well have come to

fruition, which is exactly why our commitment to using every resource we have to root out,

prosecute and punish people like Arbabsiar, who act as emissaries for our enemies, remains


Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin stated: “Thanks to

the collaborative efforts of many U.S. law enforcement and intelligence professionals, Manssor

Arbabsiar is today being held accountable for his role in this assassination plot. I applaud all

those responsible for ensuring that Arbabsiar and his co-conspirators in Iran’s Qods Force failed

in their efforts. Today’s sentencing serves as a reminder of the evolving threat environment we


According to the Complaint and Indictment filed in Manhattan federal court:

From the spring of 2011 to October 2011, ARBABSIAR and his Iran-based co-conspirators,

including members of Iran’s Qods Force, plotted the murder of the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the U.S.

In furtherance of this conspiracy, ARBABSIAR met on a number of occasions in Mexico with a DEA

confidential source (“CS-1”) who posed as an associate of a violent international drug trafficking cartel.

ARBABSIAR arranged to hire CS-1 and CS-1’s purported accomplices to murder the Ambassador with

the awareness and approval of his Iran-based co-conspirators. ARBABSIAR wired approximately

$100,000 to a bank account in the U.S. as a down payment to CS-1 for the anticipated killing of the

Ambassador, which was to take place in the U.S, also with the approval of his co-conspirators.

The Qods Force is a branch of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (the “IRGC”),

which conducts sensitive covert operations abroad, including terrorist attacks, assassinations, and

kidnappings, and is believed to have sponsored attacks against Coalition Forces in Iraq. In October 2007,

the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Qods Force as a terrorist supporter for providing material

support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.

ARBABSIAR met with CS-1 in Mexico on several occasions between May 2011 and July 2011.

During the course of these meetings, he inquired as to CS-1’s knowledge with respect to explosives and

explained that he was interested in, among other things, attacking an embassy of Saudi Arabia and the

murder of the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. In a July 14, 2011 meeting in Mexico, CS-1 told

ARBABSIAR that he would need to use at least four men to carry out the Ambassador’s murder and that

his price for doing so was $1.5 million. ARBABSIAR agreed and stated that the murder of the

Ambassador should be handled first, before the execution of other attacks that he had discussed with CS-

1. ARBABSIAR also indicated that he and his associates had $100,000 in Iran to give CS-1 as a first

payment toward the assassination.

During the same meeting, ARBABSIAR also described to CS-1 his cousin in Iran, who he said

had requested that ARBABSIAR find someone to carry out the Ambassador’s assassination.

ARBABSIAR indicated that his cousin was a “big general” in the Iranian military; that he focuses on

matters outside of Iran, and that he had taken certain unspecified actions related to a bombing in Iraq.

In a July 17, 2011 meeting in Mexico, CS-1 noted to ARBABSIAR that one of his workers had

already traveled to Washington, D.C., to surveil the Ambassador. CS-1 also raised the possibility of

innocent bystander casualties. ARBABSIAR made it clear that the assassination needed to go forward,

despite mass casualties, telling CS-1, “They want that guy [the Ambassador] done [killed], if the hundred

go with him f**k ‘em.” CS-1 and ARBABSIAR discussed bombing a restaurant in the U.S. that the

Ambassador frequented. When CS-1 noted that others could be killed in the attack, including U.S.

senators who dine at the restaurant, ARBABSIAR dismissed these concerns as “no big deal.”

On August 1 and August 9, 2011, ARBABSIAR caused two overseas wire transfers totaling

approximately $100,000 to be sent to an FBI undercover account as a down payment for CS-1 to carry out

the assassination. Later, ARBABSIAR explained to CS-1 that he would provide the remainder of the

$1.5 million after the assassination. On September 20, 2011, CS-1 told ARBABSIAR that the operation

was ready and requested that he either pay one half the agreed upon price ($1.5 million) for the murder or

that ARBABSIAR personally travel to Mexico as collateral for the final payment of the fee.

ARBABSIAR agreed to travel to Mexico to guarantee final payment for the murder.

On September 28, 2011, ARBABSIAR flew to Mexico, and he was refused entry into the country

and placed on a return flight destined for his last point of departure. The following day, ARBABSIAR

was arrested by federal agents during a flight layover at JFK International Airport in New York. Several

hours after his arrest, ARBABSIAR was advised of his Miranda rights and he agreed to waive those

rights and speak with law enforcement agents. During a series of Mirandized interviews, ARBABSIAR

confessed to his participation in the murder plot.

In addition, ARBABSIAR admitted to agents that, in connection with this plot, he was recruited,

funded, and directed by men he understood to be senior officials in Iran’s Qods Force. He said these

Iranian officials were aware of, and approved of, the use of CS-1 in connection with the plot, as well as

payments to CS-1, the means by which the Ambassador would be killed in the U.S., and the casualties

that would likely result.

ARBABSIAR also told agents that his cousin, whom he had long understood to be a senior

member of the Qods Force, had approached him in the early spring of 2011 about recruiting narcotraffickers

to kidnap the Ambassador. He told agents that he then met with CS-1 in Mexico and discussed

assassinating the Ambassador. ARBABSIAR said that afterwards, he met several times in Iran with

Gholam Shakuri, a/k/a “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 U.S. frequented by the Ambassador and that numerous bystanders would be killed.

According to Arbabsiar, the plan was approved by these officials.

In October 2011, after his arrest, ARBABSIAR made phone calls at the direction of law

enforcement to Shakuri in Iran that were monitored. During these calls, Shakuri confirmed that

ARBABSIAR should move forward with the plot to murder the Ambassador and that he should

accomplish the task as quickly as possible, stating on October 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 CS-1 additional money. Shakuri, who was also charged in the plot, remains at large.

* * *

In addition to the prison term, Judge Keenan sentenced ARBABSIAR to three years of supervised

release. ARBABSIAR was also ordered to pay forfeiture in the amount of $125,000 and a $300 special

assessment fee.

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