Former FBI agent Robert Levinson is being held in Iran after disappearing in 2007 — and a top Iranian diplomat acknowledged it in 2011, saying that he would be released if the United States helped delay a negative assessment of Iran's nuclear activities, according to new documents.
"The ambassador made it clear that they have Robert Levinson and that they are willing to release him without conditions," according to a report by the Fellowship Foundation that was sent to the FBI in October 2011.
The report was disclosed Saturday by The New York Times
. The foundation has helped in a previous release of an Iranian-American imprisoned by Tehran.
"They do, however, want tangible, 'symbolic' assurances that the messages they are sending have been received at the highest levels," the report said.
The statement came from Seyed Mehdi Miraboutalebi, the Iranian ambassador to France at the time, at a private gathering at his home in Paris with two men from the foundation, the Times reports.
The meeting stemmed from a letter the foundation sent to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader.
However, during the talks that led to last week's prisoner swap, Iran steadily maintained that it did not know of Levinson's whereabouts or status — and the Obama administration never challenged it, the Times reports.
Law-enforcement officials told the Times that factions linked to Iran's intelligence, political or religious leadership were most likely involved in Levinson's capture and detention.
Levinson, now 67, a retired FBI and DEA agent, who had worked for the U.S. government for 28 years, went missing on Kish Island, Iran, in March 2007.
His wife, Christine, confirmed in 2014 that he was working as a consultant for the CIA. He also was investigating cigarette smuggling in Tehran as a private detective.
Levinson's family has not had direct contact with him since he disappeared — and in 2010, his wife received photos, a video, and documents detailing his detention from an anonymous source.
According to the Times, it was not clear what the United States did with the Fellowship Foundation's report — if anything.
Christine Levinson told the newspaper on Friday that the report was never disclosed to her.
"If this happened in 2011, then why isn’t Bob home by now?" she asked.
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