Friday 22 June 2018

Atena and Yazdi. Photo courtesy: BBC Panorama

Fourth Iranian held in UAE trader's kidnap

Dubai, April 6, 2014

An Iranian suspected of helping kidnap a British-Iranian businessman in Dubai has been arrested in Thailand and deported to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), an official source familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

Ali Rehmat Assadi will stand trial in the UAE on charges of abducting Abbas Yazdi, who went missing in June, the source added. Yazdi's wife, Atena, has told UAE media she feared he might have been kidnapped by Iranian intelligence officers.

Iran has denied any role in Yazdi's disappearance.

UAE authorities said in January they had detained three Iranians suspected of being part of a group that had kidnapped Yazdi, a businessman who owns a general trading company in the emirate.

The official source said on Sunday that Assadi, the subject of an Interpol "red notice" or international wanted persons alert requested by Dubai, was the fourth principal member of the group. There was no immediate word on why Assadi had been in Thailand.

The Iranian and British governments had been informed of Assadi's arrest in line with diplomatic and consular regulations, the source said.

Britain's Foreign Office said in August it was in touch with the Dubai and Iranian governments over the case of Yazdi, who was 44 years old at the time of his disappearance.

UAE newspaper 7Days has cited Yazdi's wife as saying the trader and investor was a close childhood friend of the son of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Britain is among Western nations at odds with Iran over its nuclear programme and other issues. It shut its embassy in Tehran after what it called "an attack by government-sponsored militias" on the mission in November 2011. Iran's embassy in London was also closed.

British media had reported that, at the time of his disappearance, Yazdi was giving evidence by video link to an international arbitration tribunal in The Hague intended to settle a long-running commercial dispute involving United Arab Emirates-based Crescent Petroleum and the National Iranian Oil Company.

There is no suggestion that this involvement in the arbitration is connected to his disappearance, British media have said.

A report by BBC Panorama programme in February said Yazdi was born in Iran but fled after he was imprisoned there at the age of 24.

His family says he was a victim of political infighting between moderates and hardliners in the Islamic state. He moved to Britain in the 1990s and the couple's children were born in London, it said.

In 2003, Yazdi's private business records were seized by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) at the request of the Norwegian authorities, who were investigating allegations of bribery. There were no charges against Yazdi. The following year he moved his family to Dubai, the BBC report said.

Years later Yazdi discovered that the SFO passed his records on to the Iranian state in several batches over a period of five years when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in office.

"This is unbelievable because Abbas warned them that they are putting his life in danger by passing all this information to Iran," Atena Yazdi told BBC Panorama.

She said 20,000 pages had been passed on and that the handover continued for years, even after the British embassy in Tehran was attacked in 2011 and diplomatic staff were recalled.

According to her, the SFO even sent a copy of her husband's computer address book to Iran. She told the programme two people are missing and two are in prison because of this information.

She said it was "terrible" that the UK authorities had also provided the Iranians with Yazdi's office address in Dubai, the very place from where he was abducted on June 25 last year.

That day, Yazdi called his wife at 5.30 pm to say he was coming home and headed downstairs to the underground car park.

Panorama has learned that three men made their way there that afternoon from Deira, the Iranian quarter of Dubai. They had rented a flat there over several months while they kept watch on him and planned the abduction.

It is believed the men bundled Yazdi into his own car, drove up the ramp and out into the rush-hour traffic. A tollgate recorded the car on the motorway heading for Sharjah. His car was later found abandoned.

Panorama has been told that a witness saw Yazdi being taken on board a boat at the port at dawn the next day, which set sail across the water towards Iran.

Last month, three Iranians were arrested by the Dubai security services - caught trying to dispose of Yazdi's wallet, credit cards and passport.

One of the suspects, thought to be the gang leader, has since died in custody. Atena had hoped he might reveal to the authorities what happened to her husband, the BBC Panorama report said.

Tags: Dubai | Thailand | Iranian | trader | Yazdi |

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