Last man to see missing 'CIA rogue operative' claims he saw Iranians arrest him

Dawud Salahuddin, an American fugitive in Iran, says he and Robert Levinson were detained together in March 2007.

December 17, 2013 11:04
2 minute read.
Kidnapped American Robert Levinson

Kidnapped American Robert Levinson 311. (photo credit:


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The last known man to see retired FBI agent and rogue CIA operative Robert Levinson, who disappeared more than six years ago, claimed Levinson was arrested by Iranian authorities on the Iranian island of Kish.

Dawud Salahuddin, who met with Levinson on the island immediately before his disappearance, told the Christian Science Monitor on Monday that the two of them were detained during their meeting at the Maryam Hotel on March 9, 2007, and then separated.

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"They took me away, and when I left – we were down in the lobby – Levinson was surrounded by four Iranian police,” Salahuddin told the Monitor.

Salahuddin spent the night in jail, and when he returned to the hotel the next day, the manager signaled to him that Levinson was gone.

“He told me that, and without saying a word let me know that the guy did not leave on his own accord, that he was in custody. But he didn’t have to say it out loud for me to know that. And he wouldn’t have said it…. I understood that something was wrong,” Salahuddin told the Monitor.

The Iranian government has repeatedly said it knows nothing about Levinson’s disappearance or whereabouts. There has been no sign of life of the Jewish father of seven from Florida since proof-of-life photographs and videos were released in 2010 and 2011.

The US government has long maintained that Levinson made the trip as a businessman and private investigator. However, The Washington Post revealed last week that he was working for the CIA at the time as part of an unsanctioned rogue operation intending to gather intelligence on Iran's nuclear program and financial transactions.

According to Salahuddin, Levinson told him he was an investigator looking into cigarette smuggling on behalf of British American Tobacco PLC.

Salahuddin, formerly known as David Theodore Belfield, is an American fugitive living in Tehran. Levinson was allegedly attempting to recruit Salahuddin, who had important contacts in Iran, as a source for the CIA.

In July 1980, during the hostage crisis in which American diplomats in Tehran were held prisoner by Iranian students, Salahuddin allegedly shot dead a former spokesman for the Shah-era Iranian Embassy at his suburban home in Washington, DC.
Salahuddin then fled to Iran, where he has been ever since.

Salahuddin said the recent evidence suggesting Levinson was working for the CIA, and was not a private citizen, might now permit Iran to release him.

"It allows the Iranians to justify all their lies for all these years because they had an actual intelligence operative, which is quite valid," Salahuddin was quoted as saying.

Salahuddin denies any suggestion that he helped orchestrate Levinson's arrest.

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