The North Carolina native believed to be the last man who saw Robert Levinson alive is denying involvement in the former FBI agent’s disappearance, saying the affair, “has absolutely nothing to do with me.”
"Personally, I have nothing to say except that I did not contact any Iranian official and would rather be dead than an asset for the world's leading terror apparatus, i.e, the CIA," Dawud Salahuddin told NBC News in an email in response to inquiries concerning Levinson.
The New York Times has reported Levinson was introduced to Salahuddin through former NBC News producer Ira Silverman, who believed Levinson could convince Salahuddin to inform on Iran.
Salahuddin, an American once named David Belfield, fled to Iran after the 1980 murder of Ali Tabatabai, a spokesman for the shah of Iran. According to various media accounts, as well as his own admission, Salahuddin shot Tabatabai on the porch of his Maryland home while disguised as a postal employee.
The Times reports Levinson, at the time working as a CIA contractor, disappeared on March 8, 2007, or the same day he was to meet Salahuddin at the Maryam Hotel on the Iranian island of Kish.
In the wake of Levinson’s disappearance, Salahuddin reportedly gave numerous accounts as to why Levinson was missing, including how Iranian police had ambushed the CIA contractor at the hotel -- and then secreted him away for questioning. “He was saying: ‘Everyone has got to be quiet. It can get resolved early,’ ” Silverman recalled for The Times of that long-ago period.