JERUSALEM – Israel’s Shin Bet security service yesterday announced the detention in Tel Aviv of an Iranian-born businessman with Belgian citizenship suspected of spying for Teheran.
The suspect, named as Ali Mansouri, was arrested on September 11 at Ben-Gurion Airport as he was preparing to board a flight for Belgium. His detention was announced as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was making his way to New York where he is to address the UN.
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Netanyahu is expected to refocus world attention on the Iranian nuclear issue after Iran’s new president, Hassan Rowhani, attempted to defuse the subject. Israeli columnists saw the timing of the announcement of Mansouri’s detention as an attempt to provide Netanyahu with rhetorical ammunition.
Israeli officials said Mansouri was spying on American interests in Israel. He was reportedly seen photographing the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv and "recording activity there." Officials said that he admitted to being promised $1 million for his activities in Israel by the special operations unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
"At a time when Iran is trying to get closer to the U.S. it sent an agent to try to gather intelligence in order to carry out a terror attack against the American embassy in Israel. This is one further example of Iran’s policy of doublespeak and further proof that Iran’s words do not match its actions," a member of the prime minister’s delegation to New York told the Times of Israel.
Mansouri was described as a Teheran native who left Iran as a child in 1980. He has lived since in Turkey and Belgium and was traveling under the alias of Alex Mans.
He returned to Iran in 2007 to establish an international company with interests in Iran, Belgium, and Turkey. According to the Shin Bet, he was sent to Israel in order to set up a network of companies that would be fronts for intelligence gathering. One of his Belgian companies was named as "European Folding Glass System."