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The US Justice Department has indicted a member of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for an alleged plot to kill former White House national security adviser John Bolton.
The Ministry of Justice announcement the charges against Shahram Poursafi, also known as Mehdi Rezayi, 45, from Tehran in an August 10 press release. The charging documents identify Poursafi as a member of the IRGC.
Iran dismissed the accusations as “ridiculous and baseless”. Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani, quoted by Iranian media, reportedly said that Iran had strongly warned against any action against Iranian citizens under the guise of the charges.
The department said Poursafi “attempted to pay individuals in the United States $300,000 to carry out the murder” in Washington or the neighboring US state of Maryland.
Prosecutors said the plot was likely in retaliation for the January 2020 drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, who was the head of the IRGC’s elite Quds Force.
The allegation came as Iran weighed a proposed deal to revive the 2015 nuclear deal under which Tehran curbed its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
Tehran suspended negotiations on reviving the deal for months, demanding that the United States withdraw its official designation of the IRGC as a sponsor of terrorism. Washington rejected this request.
A US official quoted by Reuters said the United States did not believe the charges against Poursafi should affect diplomatic efforts.
According to the Justice Department, Poursafi began communicating with a confidential source in October 2021 via an encrypted messaging app and ordered the individual to hire someone to “take out” Bolton for $300,000 and create a cryptocurrency account to facilitate payment.
Poursafi reportedly told the confidential source, who was not identified by the Justice Department, that it did not matter how the murder was committed.
The Justice Department said that in December 2021, Poursafi sent a photograph of two plastic bags that appeared to contain stacks of dollars and a handwritten note with the name of the confidential source.
On January 3, the anniversary of Soleimani’s murder, Poursafi regretted that the murder was not committed before the anniversary. He also told the source that he was under pressure to complete the murder.
Poursafi also allegedly told the source that he had another assassination job for which he would pay $1 million. The target of this alleged plot was not disclosed by the Department of Justice.
Months later, the source refused to continue working without being paid. Poursafi agreed on April 28 to send the source $100 in cryptocurrency to prove that the payment could be made. Later that day, the cryptocurrency wallet received two payments totaling $100, according to the Department of Justice.
If convicted, Poursafi faces up to 10 years in prison for using interstate commercial facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, and up to 15 years in prison for supplying and attempting to providing material support to a transnational murder plot. The potential penalties also carry fines of up to $250,000 each.
Poursafi remains at large abroad, the justice ministry said.
Bolton, who served as national security adviser to then-President Donald Trump from 2018 to 2019 and also served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006 under then-President George W. Bush, thanked the FBI and the Department of Justice for their work in developing the case.
“While not much can be said publicly at this time, one point is indisputable: Iran’s leaders are liars, terrorists and enemies of the United States,” he said in a statement. statement.
Current national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement that the indictment document described allegations of continued Iranian attempts to commit assassination on US soil and warned Iran against carrying out such plots.
“If Iran attacks any of our citizens, including those who continue to serve the United States or those who served before, Iran will face serious consequences,” he said.