Washington: This file photograph, taken on May 16, 2004, shows an aerial view of the Balal offshore oil platform in the Persian Gulf on the edge of Qatar. (By AFP)The CIA spy ring dismantled by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry last month was trying to gather intelligence on Iran’s oil sales, a new report by The New York Times reveals.
On July 22, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry announced it had identified and destroyed an integrated network of operatives serving the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) inside the country.
The Ministry’s director-general for counterintelligence said that Iran captured 17 professional spies working on behalf of the CIA throughout last year and some of those arrested had been handed death sentences.
“The identified spies were employed in sensitive and vital private sector centers in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber areas… where they collected classified information,” the unnamed official said in a statement.
Now, it appears that the espionage involved clandestine efforts to gather intelligence on oil sales, The New York Times said.
According to the report, citing two traders, many of the 17 people accused of spying had worked in the oil and energy sector as traders and brokers.
“They had come under scrutiny because of contacts with foreigners on their trips abroad.”
The suspects arrested in Iran were operating in key organizations and institutions mainly in the private sector, an Iranian official said at the time.
He noted that the CIA had recruited the individuals by mainly contacting them over the internet.
Other tactics included issuing or renewing US visas, hiring Iranian specialists, providing necessary equipment and access to certain participants in scientific events abroad, sending emails and messaging through social media.