Iranian man arrested on charges of spying for British intelligence was passing on information on shipping operations to help impose sanctions, parliamentarians told
The Iranian man arrested for spying for British intelligence was helping foreign governments impose EU sanctions on covert oil shipping operations, parliamentarians in the country have been briefed.
An Iranian MP revealed the alleged MI6 agent was passing information on Iran’s shipping industries to its “enemies”, to be used in international efforts to cripple the sector.
Court officials in the city of Kerman said a suspect had confessed to holding 11 meetings inside and outside the country with British intelligence.
Alireza Manzari Tavakoli, an intelligence specialist in the Iranian parliament, was quoted on a news website claiming that the man handed over details of sanctions-busting activities. “We have received further information about the arrested individual that suggests that he has been involved in passing secret data on Iran’s shipping industries and the insurance covers on our oil tankers to the British intelligence services,” he said. “The EU could use them for imposing more sanctions on our shipping sectors.
“The arrested individual has also confessed to passing economic intelligence about Iran’s use of other countries’ flags in transporting its oil abroad. The information provided by this spy has been used by the enemies of the Islamic Republic to pass new and more sanctions on Iran.”
Britain’s role as the centre of the global maritime industry and leading insurance hub of the merchant fleet means London was pivotal to efforts to impose a virtual shutdown of Iran’s oil shipping through EU-wide sanctions.
Meanwhile Dadkhoda Salari, the public prosecutor in the city of Kerman, has described the alleged spy as a 50-year-old man, with good university education and fluent in English, who has never held any government job. Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence agents had been monitoring his movements for the last two months.
Hardliners opposed to the current thaw in British relations with Iran could use the spying revelations to disrupt progress towards restoration of full diplomatic ties.
Conservative factions have already sought to secure the withdrawal of an invitation by Iran’s parliament to Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, to fly to Tehran for a fence-mending visit.
The announcement of the case came just a day after Iran’s new non-resident envoy to Britain, Hassan Habibollah-Zadeh, held talks in London on his first visit since his appointment last month. Ajay Sharma, his British counterpart, broke a two-year freeze in diplomatic relations earlier this month when, following the temporary deal on Iran’s nuclear programme in Geneva, he visited the Tehran embassy that was looted by an Iranian mob in November 2011.
By Damien McElroy, and Ahmed Vahdat
7:10PM GMT 15 Dec 2013
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