NEW YORK: An Iranian-born used car salesman from Texas was sentenced to 25 years in a US prison yesterday after pleading guilty to taking part in a plot with an Iranian military unit to murder the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US.
Manssor Arbabsiar, 58, received the sentence at a hearing before US District Judge John Keenan in Manhattan. He had pleaded guilty in October last year to charges related to his seeking to hire Mexican drug traffickers to kill the ambassador. The plot was vehemently denied by Tehran.
He pleaded guilty to one count of murder-for-hire, one count of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, and one count of conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries.
The supposed member of the drug trafficking cartel who Arbabsiar offered to pay $1.5 million to carry out the plot was in reality a confidential informant of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
No weapons were obtained and the scheme to kill Saudi Ambassador Adel Al Jubeir was not fulfilled.
"I can't change what I did," Arbabsiar said in a brief statement in court.
US authorities also brought charges against Gholam Shakuri, who prosecutors say was a member of the Quds Force. He has not been arrested.
Prosecutors sought the statutory maximum sentence of 25 years for Arbabsiar.
Lawyers for Arbabsiar had sought a lower sentence of 10 years, contending he had provided assistance to US authorities after his arrest and
citing purported mental health issues.
But Keenan emphasised the need to send a message to those who might consider violent acts against US interests "must learn the lesson that such conduct will not be tolerated."
In addition to his prison sentence, Arbabsiar was ordered to forfeit $125,000.
According to prosecutors, the plot had its origins in a spring 2011 trip by
Arbabsiar to Iran.
A cousin who was a high-ranking member of the Quds Force told Arbabsiar he wanted him to find someone
he could hire to kidnap Al Jubeir.
The cousin subsequently put Arbabsiar in touch with Shakuri.
After returning to Texas, Arbabsiar in May 2011 went to Mexico and met with the DEA source, who Arbabsiar met through someone he knew in Texas.
As part of the deal with the DEA source, Arbabsiar wired $100,000 as a down-payment for the $1.5 million offered to carry out the
plot, which by then had evolved to murdering the ambassador.