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U.S. imposes sanctions against Iran over the 2007 abduction of former FBI agent

Robert Levinson vanished 13 years ago and federal authorities named two Tehran officials who allegedly authorized his "abduction and detention."

The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions against two Iranian officials on Monday in connection to the 2007 abduction of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, authorities said.

The announcement targeted Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai, who are within the Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran (MOIS), officials said.

"For 13 years, the Iranian government, which continues to take foreigners and dual-nationals hostage as political leverage, has denied knowledge of Mr. Levinson's whereabouts or condition," according to a Treasury statement.

Image: Robert Levinson
This undated handout photo provided by the family of Robert Levinson after they received it in April 2011, shows retired-FBI agent Robert Levinson.Levinson family via AP file

"However, senior Iranian officials authorized Levinson's abduction and detention and launched a disinformation campaign to deflect blame from the Iranian regime. The individuals designated today, Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai, acted in their capacity as MOIS officers in the abduction, detention, and probable death of Mr. Levinson."

If the two Iranian officials have any "property and interests" that are "in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons," they will be seized, according to the Treasury statement.

Monday's action also opens the door for "secondary sanctions." If those two Iranian officials have accounts or interest with other institutions that do business in the U.S., the Treasury Department could conceivably now take action against those banks, businesses or nations.

Officials in Iran could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.

Earlier this year, Levinson's family said it had "received information from" American officials that he had died in custody.

Levinson, who spent 22 years with the FBI, vanished on March 9, 2007, while on a business trip to Kish Island, a Persian Gulf resort island off the southern coast of Iran.

The U.S. government has said Levinson was there on his own, but years later confirmed that he was doing contract work for the CIA when he was last seen.

Iran has always maintained it wasn’t behind Levinson’s disappearance and had no idea where he was.

But his family, in April 2011, posted pictures it received anonymously of a bearded, disheveled Levinson who appeared to be wearing a jail-style orange jumpsuit.

“The abduction of Mr. Levinson in Iran is an outrageous example of the Iranian regime’s willingness to commit unjust acts,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“The United States will always prioritize the safety and security of the American people and will continue to aggressively pursue those who played a role in Mr. Levinson’s detention and probable death.”