The charges say that Iranian operative Shahram Poursafi offered to pay $300,000 for someone in the Washington area to kill John Bolton, former President Donald Trump's national security adviser, in late 2020. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. authorities on Wednesday charged an Iranian operative with plotting to assassinate former national security adviser John Bolton as part of a revenge plot for the U.S. airstrike that killed top commander Qassem Soleimani in 2020.
The Justice Department announced the charges against Shahram Poursafi, a member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who prosecutors said tried to put someone else up to killing former President Donald Trump's top national security adviser.
Poursafi, 45, has not been captured and his whereabouts are not known.
The charges say Poursafi was working on behalf of the Iranian military when he tried to arrange Bolton's death in or around Washington, D.C. Prosecutors said Poursafi offered to pay $250,000 to anyone in the Washington area to carry out the assassination. The amount was later increased to $300,000 in cryptocurrency.
"The Justice Department has the solemn duty to defend our citizens from hostile governments who seek to hurt or kill them," Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said in a statement.
"This is not the first time we have uncovered Iranian plots to exact revenge against individuals on U.S. soil and we will work tirelessly to expose and disrupt every one of these efforts."
According to the charges, Poursafi asked a U.S. resident who he met online to take photographs of Bolton in October 2020. Poursafi then met a second person and offered to pay the money in cryptocurrency to kill Bolton.
Prosecutors say that Poursafi pressured the person to carry out the assassination and sent them $100 in cryptocurrency as a good-faith payment.
"Iran has a history of plotting to assassinate individuals in the U.S. it deems a threat, but the U.S. government has a longer history of holding accountable those who threaten the safety of our citizens," FBI Executive Assistant Director Larissa Knapp in a statement.
The assassination plot was intended as retaliation for a U.S. military drone strike in Iraq that killed Soleimani in January 2020. He was a top military leader and the commander of Iran's Quds Force.
If convicted, Poursafi would face as many as 10 years in prison on a charge of using of interstate commerce in the commission of murder-for-hire and 15 years for attempting to provide material support for a transnational murder plot.