No Record of Arrest of Former FBI Agent, Iranian Official Says

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 4, 2007; 9:08 PM

A senior Iranian official said Wednesday that an initial investigation by the Iranian Foreign Ministry into the fate of former FBI agent Robert A. Levinson had found no record of his arrest, although an Iranian news organization reported that he was picked up by Iranian security forces on March 9.

Iran's PressTV reported on its English language Web site Wednesday that Levinson was on Iran's Kish Island to "make contact with persons who could help him make representations to official Iranian bodies responsible for suppressing trade in pirated products, which is a major concern of his company."

Quoting unidentified sources, the news agency said the visit was supposed to be a one-day trip. But Levinson drew the attention of security forces, the report added, when his Iranian host registered in the same hotel room. The police initially had questions about the identity papers the Iranian provided to the hotel, it added.

"It is a case of ordinary business running into extraordinarily bad circumstances," the agency reported. "It is expected the matter will be over in a few days time."

Levinson was last heard from on March 8. He was headed to the Iranian resort and free trade zone on Kish Island, where visas are not required.

The Iranian official said Tehran's foreign ministry first looked into the whereabouts of the missing American, who was on a private business trip to Iran, after an initial U.S. message was sent to Tehran through Swiss intermediaries on March 15. When it did not hear anything, the State Department sent a second message on Monday. Iran responded by asking for additional specifics, such as Levinson's flight, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

In Iran's security system, it is possible to be detained without being formally charged with an arrest warrant.

Levinson's family in his hometown of Coral Springs, Fla., issued a statement Wednesday expressing concern for his well-being. "We miss him and love him very much. We are worried about him and want him home safe and sound as soon as possible," his wife, Christine Levinson, said in a statement to the Associated Press.

"This has been a very difficult time. In the past 48 hours, as this has become public, we've heard from many of our friends. We are touched and so grateful for the support and prayers we've received," the family said.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company