Eric Holder

Statement on Alleged Saudi Ambassador Assassination Plot

delivered 11 October 2011

Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Good afternoon.

Today, the Department of Justice is announcing charges against two people who allegedly attempted to carry out a deadly plot that was directed by factions of the Iranian government to assassinate a foreign ambassador here in the United States.

Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen who holds an Iranian passport and was arrested last month in New York, is accused of working with members of an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to devise an international murder-for-hire scheme targeting the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States.

According to the complaint filed today in the Southern District of New York, Arbabsiar is alleged to have orchestrated a 1.5 million dollar assassination plot with Gholam Shakuri, an Iranian-based member of the Quds Force, and other Iranian co-conspirators.

Now the Quds Force is a unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. It is also suspected of sponsoring attacks against the Coalition Forces in Iraq and was designated by the Department of Treasury in 2007 for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.

The complaint alleges that this conspiracy was conceived, was sponsored, and was directed from Iran and constitutes a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law, including a convention that explicitly protects diplomats from being harmed.1 In addition to holding these individual conspirators accountable for their alleged role in this plot, the United States is committed to holding Iran accountable for its actions.

Arbabsiar and Shakuri are charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism, among other charges. Arbabsiar has been in custody since September the 29th, 2011, while Shakuri, based in Iran, remains at large.

According to the complaint, earlier this spring Arbabsiar met with a confidential informant from the Drug Enforcement Administration who was posing as an associate of a violent international drug trafficking cartel.

The meeting, which took place in May, and in Mexico, was the first of a series that would result in an international conspiracy by elements of the Iranian government to pay the informant 1.5 million dollars to murder the Ambassador on United States' soil, according to documents we filed today in court.

According to the complaint, those discussions led Arbabsiar -- with Shakuriís approval -- to facilitate the wiring of approximately 100,000 dollars into a bank account in the United States as a down payment for the attempted assassination.

The complaint also states that in the days since the defendantís arrest, he has confessed to his participation in the alleged plot as well as provided other valuable information about elements of the Iranian governmentís role in it.

The disruption of this alleged plot marks a significant achievement by our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, as well as the close cooperation of our partners in the Mexican government.

I want to commend the outstanding work of the agencies that were involved in this investigation, including the FBI and Director Mueller, who is here with us today, as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration and Michelle Leonhart.

Their agents and their analysts worked closely with prosecutors here at the Departmentís National Security Division as well as in the Southern District of New York over these many months to monitor this alleged conspiracy, obtain valuable information, and bring one of the primary plotters to justice.

Thank you for your remarkable work.

1 See, for example, Articles 40, 59, and 64 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations

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