A former top Iranian defence official, who was executed in January this year, was a British spy, intelligence officials have said. Alireza Akbari, Iran’s former deputy defence minister, gave the country’s strategic information, including nuclear secrets, to the British for 15 years, the New York Times reported citing intelligence officials. Iran charged Mr Akbari with being an agent of the MI6, but the British government has never acknowledged he was a spy. Britain had called Akbari’s hanging a barbaric act and said it would not go unpunished.
The NYT report said that a British intelligence official went to Israel in 2008 and told the officials there that they had a mole with access to Iran’s nuclear secret.
The British official even provided information to Israel that suggested Iran was clandestinely building nuclear weapons. A year later, then US President Barack Obama made the information public, sending shockwaves across the world.
Over the years, Mr Akbari also disclosed the identity and activities of more than 100 Iranian officials, the NYT report further said.
Among them was Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the nuclear scientist known as the “father of the Iranian bomb”, who was be assassinated by Israel in 2020.
The outlet did not name the intelligence official who is the source of this information. But the report is based on interviews with current and former intelligence officials from the US, UK, Israel, Germany and Iran.
Akbari, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war that raged from 1980-1988, was arrested sometime between March 2019 and March 2020, state media said. After Akbari’s arrest, the state television aired eight short videos in which he detailed his spying activities and recruitment by Britain at a function in British embassy in Tehran.
In one of the videos, Akbari said he was recruited by MI6 in 2004 and told that he and his family will be given visas for Britain. A year later, he travelled to the UK and met his handler, who paid him $2.4 million (according to current rate) to set up front companies in Austria, Spain and Britain to provide cover for meetings with his handlers.
Apart from holding the post of Iran’s deputy defence minister, Akbari had also been an “advisor to the commander of the navy” as well as “heading a division at the defence ministry’s research centre”.