by WorldTribune Staff, May 15, 2018
A Russian oligarch who is now a witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation spent millions of dollars in an attempt to rescue an American held hostage in Iran at the time Mueller was director of the FBI, a report said.
Details of the FBI’s 2009 deal with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to help rescue retired FBI and DEA agent Robert Levinson from Iran were recounted in a May 14 column by John Solomon for The Hill.
Deripaska’s ties to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort have brought him under the scrutiny of Mueller’s investigators.
Levinson, who remains missing, was last seen alive in 2011.
“Though Iran has never admitted it, Levinson was believed to be held in a secret government prison there after his disappearance,” the Daily Mail said in a May 15 report.
Andrew McCabe, the recently-fired FBI deputy director, was one of Deripaska’s early FBI contacts, sources told Solomon.
Deripaska’s lawyer told Solomon that the Russian spent $25 million assembling a private search and rescue team working with Iranian contacts in an effort to free Levinson.
Robyn Gritz, a retired agent who supervised the Levinson case in 2009, told Solomon: “I kept Director Mueller and Deputy Director [John] Pistole informed of the various efforts and operations.”
The State Department, then under Hillary Clinton, reportedly blocked a deal for Levinson’s return from going through, Gritz said.
“We tried to turn over every stone we could to rescue Bob, but every time we started to get close, the State Department seemed to always get in the way,” Gritz told Solomon.
David McGee, a former federal prosecutor who represents Levinson’s family, told Solomon that “Deripaska’s efforts came very close to success. We were told at one point that the terms of Levinson’s release had been agreed to by Iran and the U.S. and included a statement by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pointing a finger away from Iran. At the last minute, Secretary Clinton decided not to make the agreed-on statement.”
Mueller’s spokesman declined to comment to Solomon, as did McCabe and the State Department.