Family of former FBI agent taken hostage 16 years ago in Iran still seeking answers

Bob Levinson was kidnapped on Iran’s Kish Island in 2007 while investigating the skimming of Iranian oil profits

(FILES) This photo courtesy of the Levinson family at shows a 2007 image of former FBI Agent Bob Levinson.  The former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 2007, has died in Iranian custody, his family said on March 25, 2020. "We recently received information from US officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody," said a statement from Levinson's family. USIrandiplomacyprisoners  - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / AFP PHOTO/WWW.HELPBOBLEVINSON.COM" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

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The family of former FBI agent Bob Levinson, who was kidnapped in Iran 16 years ago, have made a plea for those responsible to be brought to justice.

Private investigator Mr Levinson, who would have celebrated his 75th birthday today, was snatched on Iran’s Kish Island in March 2007 during an investigation into the skimming of Iranian oil profits.

He was tortured at a secret location by his unknown kidnappers before his family learnt in 2020 that he had died.

In 2020, US judge Timothy Kelly ruled that Iran was responsible and ordered it to pay damages of $1.46 billion to his family.

The Iranians have refused to admit culpability for Mr Levinson’s captivity but a hearing in the US heard that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was probably behind his imprisonment because of his investigation into state corruption.

In a statement on Friday, Mr Levison's family told The National, they are "no closer" to getting answers.

Thursday marked 16 years since he disappeared.

"Sixteen years after Bob was taken from us, we are still without answers," they said.

"We are no closer to resolving Bob’s case, and those responsible for this heinous crime have still faced no consequences for their actions.

"We call on the Biden administration to utilise every opportunity during ongoing talks with Iran to press for a resolution. We miss Bob every day and remain determined to make sure those involved in his kidnapping are brought to justice."

He had travelled to Kish Island to question a contact over claims that Iranian officials were taking a cut from oil sales and hiding the money in overseas investment.

Mr Levinson, who was America’s longest-held civilian hostage before his death, was last known to be alive in 2011 because of photographs emailed by his captors showing him bound by chains and wearing an orange jumpsuit.

The photos and a video were accompanied by demands to the US suggesting Mr Levinson was being held by an unidentified terrorist group, but Judge Kelly has since ruled that Iran was responsible.

“Sixteen years have passed since Bob was abducted in Iran. Despite this passage of time, Bob remains a part of our FBI family, and we remain as committed as ever to bringing him home,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said.

“The FBI and our partners across the US government will continue to seek answers for Bob’s wife, children, and grandchildren, and we will not rest until the Levinson family has those answers. We will continue to pursue every lead possible, including calling on the Iranian government to assist with Bob’s return.”

The FBI has offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading directly to the location, recovery, and return of Mr Levinson.

"Bob should be celebrating his 75th birthday with his wife, children, and grandchildren. However, this momentous occasion is instead another milestone missed and another day too many that Bob’s family is left with unanswered questions," the FBI said in a statement.

"Despite the most credible evidence collected over the past 16 years pointing to the likelihood that Bob died in Iranian captivity, the FBI remains committed to seeking answers and returning Bob to his family and country.

"This anniversary also serves as another opportunity for the government of Iran to help return Bob home to his family. The FBI again renews its repeated calls to Iran to uphold its prior commitments to co-operate and to share information that could lead to Bob’s return."

The Department of State Rewards for Justice Programme is also offering a reward of up to $20 million for information.

Mr Levinson, who retired in 1998, was an FBI special agent for 22 years and a Drug Enforcement Administration agent for six years before that.

The plea for President Joe Biden to intervene in Mr Levinson's disappearance comes as Baquer Namazi, who was detained in Iran for more than six years for allegedly collaborating with a foreign government, used his first public appearance on Thursday since his release in October 2022 to urge Mr Biden to do more to bring his son Siamak Namazi home.

The 86-year-old former UN official was detained in 2016 while trying to visit Siamak, who has both US and Iranian citizenship and has been held since October 2015 on espionage charges.

While in Iran, Mr Namazi senior was sentenced to 10 years in prison but was released on medical grounds in 2018. His sentence was ultimately commuted but he was barred from leaving the country.

He was finally permitted to seek medical treatment outside Iran late last year but his son remains in Elvin Prison.

Updated: March 10, 2023, 1:55 PM