A former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, Robert Levinson, who mysteriously vanished in Iran four years ago is reportedly alive, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement Thursday.
Levinson disappeared in Iran in March 2007 from the Iranian island of Kish, a Persian Gulf resort, and his fate was unknown for three and a half years.
Since he disappeared, Iran has repeatedly denied knowing what happened to him or where he might be. U.S. diplomats and investigators have long said they believed he was taken by Iranian government agents.
Documentary proof that he is alive surfaced late last year, prompting an intensification of diplomatic efforts to bring him home.
"It has been almost four years since I have seen my beloved husband Robert Levinson," his wife, Christine, wrote on the family's website. "Our family is tremendously encouraged by the news Bob is alive but remains concerned for his safety and well-being."
Levinson, 63, disappeared after meeting with an American fugitive known as Dawud Salahuddin, accused of killing a former aid to the Shah of Iran, reports the New York Times. However, Levinson's family and U.S. officials have since said he Levinson was in Iran investigating cigarette smuggling.
"Before Mr. Levinson’s retirement from the F.B.I. in 1998, he specialized in Russian organized crime, money laundering and narcotics-related cases. Most of his work as a private investigator involved product counterfeiting, though he also worked for some public advocacy groups," the Times reported.
"It was an assignment for one such organization, Global Witness, a London-based group that investigates corporate and governmental corruption that took him to Dubai in March 2007. After spending several days there, he flew to Kish for his meeting with Mr. Salahuddin."
It is still unclear where exactly Levinson is or who is holding him. Clinton said he is "being held somewhere in southwest Asia."
“As the government of Iran has previously offered its assistance in this matter, we respectfully request the Iranian government to undertake humanitarian efforts to safely return and reunite Bob with his family," Clinton said in her statement.
-- Hanna Ingber Win
Follow GlobalPost on Twitter: @GlobalPost