Former FBI agent Levinson dead in Iranian custody: family

Former FBI agent Bob Levinson is seen in 2007, before his disappearance in Iran, in a family photo (AFP Photo/-)

Washington (AFP) - The former FBI agent Bob Levinson, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 2007, has died in Iranian custody, his family said Wednesday.

"We recently received information from US officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody," said a statement from Levinson's family.

It added that it was unsure when or how he died, but that it was before the coronavirus pandemic that has hit Iran hard.

Levinson is one of a number of Americans who have disappeared in arch-enemy Iran but his case has been among the most perplexing, with his family until now holding out hope that he remained alive.

The father of seven vanished in March 2007 in Kish, an island that has more lenient visa rules than the rest of Iran, and was said to have been investigating cigarette counterfeiting.

But The Washington Post reported in 2013 that Levinson, who had retired from the FBI, was working for the CIA and had gone on a rogue mission aimed at gathering intelligence on Iran.

His family accused the Iranian regime of "repeatedly lying to the world" about Levinson and said that the whereabouts of his body were unknown.

"Those who are responsible for what happened to Bob Levinson, including those in the US government who for many years repeatedly left him behind, will ultimately receive justice for what they have done," the family said.

"We will spend the rest of our lives making sure of this, and the Iranian regime must know we will not be going away."

Iran has returned a number of other Americans detained in the country, often dual nationals, but has repeatedly said it did not know about Levinson.