Manssor Arbabsiar, an Iranian- American car salesman, admitted to conspiring with the Iranian military to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S. in a Washington restaurant.
Arbabsiar, who was scheduled to go on trial in January, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge John Keenan in Manhattan to traveling in the commission of a murder-for-hire plot, conspiring to commit a murder-for-hire and conspiring to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries. The judge told Arbabsiar he faces a maximum of 25 years in prison at his Jan. 23 sentencing. Arbabsiar remains in custody.
According to prosecutors in the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri, who the U.S. said was a member of Iran’s Qods Force, hired a member of a Mexican drug cartel to kill Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir. The man they approached to be their assassin was a U.S. informant.
“In Mexico, we hired a person named Junior, who turned out to be an FBI agent, to kidnap the ambassador,” Arbabsiar told the judge today. “Junior said it would be easier to kill the ambassador. I and others agreed to go along with this new plan. We agreed to pay Junior, and to do that we transferred money to the United States from Iran.”
A naturalized U.S. citizen, Arbabsiar, of Corpus Christi, Texas, wired more than $100,000 into the country as part of the plot, the government said.
His lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, declined to comment after the plea hearing. Shakuri remains at large, prosecutors said.
When the case was first announced last October, Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. would hold Iran responsible for any terrorist actions tied to the plot, which he said was sponsored by the Iranian government. He called the conspiracy a “flagrant” violation of international law.
The U.S. State Department has described the Qods Force as an arm of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Other Qods Force members in Iran were involved and helped to bankroll the plot, which was to have cost $1.5 million, prosecutors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Kim, a prosecutor on the case, asked the defendant, “Mr. Arbabsiar, were the people you agreed with in this plot officials in the Iranian military?”
“Yes, part of it,” Arbabsiar answered.
The case is U.S. v. Arbabsiar, 11-cr-00897, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York(Manhattan).
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