Bloomberg News

Mexico Helped U.S. Prevent Iranian Plot to Kill Ambassador

October 12, 2011

Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Mexico helped the U.S. capture an Iranian man allegedly plotting to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S. by denying him entry, a Mexican official said.

The Mexican government returned Manssor Arbabsiar to the U.S. on Sept. 28, where he was arrested at John F Kennedy International Airport, deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Julian Ventura told reporters in Mexico City yesterday. Mexico worked in coordination with the U.S. “from the first moment” on Arbabsiar’s arrest, Ventura said.

The U.S. Justice Department charged Arbabsiar and another man in a purported conspiracy to murder Saudi Arabian Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir, according to papers filed in Manhattan federal court.

Arbabsiar met on several occasions in Mexico with a confidential source of the Drug Enforcement Administration who was posing as a member of a drug cartel, according to the complaint filed in Manhattan federal court. The undercover informant told Arbabsiar he would have to pay $1.5 million to carry out the hit against the diplomat, the government said.

ABC News, citing unnamed U.S. agents, said that the Iranian-American Arbabsiar thought he was dealing with a member of the Zetas, one of Mexico’s most-violent criminal gangs. The U.S. complaint only described the group as “a large, sophisticated and violent drug-trafficking cartel” operating on both sides of the U.S. border and having access to military- grade weapons and explosives.

Meanest Drug Gang

The Zetas’ reputation for brazen assassinations may be attractive to international terrorists, though no Mexican cartel would risk U.S. retaliation by carrying out an attack on American soil, said George Grayson, professor of government at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

“The Zetas are a group that can commit any crime any place, anywhere,” said Grayson, who has written several books about Mexico’s drug cartels. “But that doesn’t obviate the fact that they have no record for seeking to carry out hits in the U.S.”

The U.S. informant who posed as a cartel member had been charged in connection with a narcotics offense by authorities, prosecutors said in the criminal complaint. In exchange for his cooperation, the state charges were dismissed and he began to assist the U.S. in numerous seizures of narcotics, according to the complaint.

The U.S. said Arbabsiar allegedly conspired with Gholam Shakuri, a member of Iran’s “Qods Force.” Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, wired more than $100,000 to the U.S. as part of the alleged plot, the government said.

--Editors: Joshua Goodman, Jonathan Roeder

To contact the reporter on this story: Nacha Cattan in Mexico City at ncattan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net


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