UPDATED Robert Levinson Former FBI Agent and Florida Private Eye Held in Iran He Was Working For British American Tobacco (BAT) BATUKE Cigarettes

UPDATED September 25th, 2012

Original post Tuesday, April 20, 2010

 
 A former FBI agent and Florida private investigator who vanished without a trace in Iran three years ago.  Hassan Abdulraham, an American-born Muslim convert who is wanted for murder in the United States, says he met with Robert Levinson on March 8, 2007, at the Maryam Hotel on Kish Island, a Persian Gulf island that is part of Iran. Levinson, who was working for a private security company hired by British American Tobacco (BAT), Levinson had taken a flight to Kish Island from Dubai as part of an investigation into the lucrative cigarette smuggling trade, into Iran. 
 
In 1996, British American Tobacco (BAT’s) calculation concluded: “Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon have a Government monopoly on cigarette manufacturing and in Syria and Lebanon on imports as well … Lebanon permits free imports. Syria allows limited quantities whilst there is a complete ban in Iran (cigarette imports). Despite this, or because of this, 62% of Iran’s market is Transit.
 
Iran has a population of 75 million people who spend over $2 Billion Dollars a year on cigarettes get the picture. The desire of tobacco companies to smuggle into Iran is sometimes stated in very plain terms, in this instance amongst senior executives within British American Tobacco (BAT): “If there are opportunities to transit to Iran these should be taken up.   Several reasons for the interest in the Islamic Republic of Iran apply to all the major tobacco companies:
 (1) a large population;
(2) rising living standards;
(3) moderate cigarette  consumption levels leaving room for growth; and
(4) a worldwide trend towards a diminished role for state tobacco monopolies.

Moreover, the Islamic Republic of Iran is conveniently located, wedged between the tobacco industry’s established smuggling centres in the Middle East and the burgeoning tobacco markets in the subcontinent and the former Soviet Union. Documents suggest that the multinational tobacco companies saw the Islamic Republic of Iran not only as a market, but also as a conduit for the supply of contraband cigarettes to othercountries.  The attractiveness of the Islamic Republic of Iran is underlined by a recent article in a  tobacco trade journal: ‘Iran is the largest consumer in the Middle East and this includes  significant cigarette consumption. An estimated 45 billion units are sold each year and consumption is growing at an annual rate of 1 percent.’
 
If Mr. Levinson was looking to find routes for British American Tobacco (BAT) to transport cigarettes into Iran where the Iranian Government has a monopoly on cigarette manufacturing he was playing with fire.

Born in North Carolina with the name David Theodore Belfield, age 60, Abdulraham–who is also known as Dawud Salahuddin (his photo above)– born in Roanoke Rapids, NC on November 10, 1950 and grew up in Bay Shore, Long Island is wanted by the FBI for the murder of a former Iranian diplomat in Maryland in 1980. He readily admits to shooting Ali Akbar Tabatabeaei at the behest of Iranian agents, who he says paid him $5,000 for the hit.
 

Despite the warrant for his arrest, Salahuddin has had some indirect contact with American authorities. Shortly after the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, US intelligence agents established contact with Salahuddin, who “began a back-channel relationship with American authorities and talked about returning to the United States to stand trial in the murder of Tabatabai.” He sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno dated March 5, 1994, proposing mediating between the U.S. and “certain key figures in the worldwide Islamic movement (Terrorists)” in return for freedom from prosecution.

Abdulraham, in an interview with FoxNews.com, said Levinson was overweight, but otherwise appeared to be in good health.  Levinson had some health issues, and somebody like him couldn’t go from being free for 59 years to all of a sudden thrown into jail and not being free.”  Tehran has rebuffed all American inquiries into Levinson’s whereabouts.

 
CSM March 2010..The US State Department marked the third anniversary of the disappearance of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent turned private investigator, from Kish Island in Iran by appealing to the authorities in Tehran to cooperate with the efforts of the US and his wife, Christine, to locate him.  Mr. Levinson, his photos above, who served 27 years as an FBI agent and also worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration, disappeared from Kish Island, a free trade zone and smuggling center where Iran’s typically strict visa requirements are not enforced, while investigating a cigarette smuggling ring for a private client, Levinson said he was representing British American Tobacco (BAT) and wanted help in cracking a cigarette smuggling ring into Iran. He has seven children and two grandchildren.
 

According to the Financial Times, Levinson spent his long career in and out of the FBI focused on counter-narcotics and Russian organized crime. The newspaper said that the “British American Tobacco (BAT) told the FT it had employed Mr. Robert Levinson through Bishop International security consultancy to take on cigarette smuggling counterfeiting work.”

British American Tobacco and the “insidious impact of illicit trade” in cigarettes across Africa; BATUKE cigarettes, British American Tobacco (BAT) has relied on illegal channels to supply markets across Africa since the 1980s. Available documents suggest smuggling has been an important component of BAT’s market entry strategy in order to gain leverage in negotiating with governments for tax concessions, compete with other transnational tobacco companies, circumvent local import restrictions and unstable political and economic conditions and gain a market presence. British American Tobacco (BAT)worked through distributors and local agents to exploit weak government capacity to gain substantial market share in major countries.
 

The BAT company publicly asserts, “British American Tobacco companies do not smuggle. We do not condone smuggling, and we do not encourage or collude with others to smuggle on our behalf”. 21 Internal documents, however, suggest that contraband had been central to BAT’s corporate strategy across Africa. While distributors and local agents ran day-to-day operations, documents describe how BAT knowingly supplied cigarettes to such parties for contraband purposes while simultaneously relying on legal exports as cover for larger-scale smuggling.

SMUGGLING CIGARETTES INTO IRAN SPECIFIC SMUGGLING ROUTES TO IRAN; Smuggling via Kish Island, BATUKE cigarettes, With many documented examples of the tobacco companies smuggling their own cigarettes in Latin America, Asia, Europe, North America and Africa, it is not surprising that the documents suggest that the same companies were also engaged in similar activity in Iran. Apparently using a variety of euphemisms for smuggling including “duty not paid” (or DNP), “transit,” and “general trade” (or GT), which are well explained elsewhere, the desire of tobacco companies to smuggle into Iran is sometimes stated in very plain terms, in this instance amongst senior executives within British American Tobacco (BAT): “If there are opportunities to transit to Iran these should be taken up.”

Key to the future”: British American Tobacco (BAT) and cigarette smuggling into China. The Hong Kong-China supply route…Hong Kong has provided the most important route into China for contraband cigarettes from the early 1980s when the territory was still under British colonial rule. Documents describe billions of sticks shipped by BAT UK and Export (BATUKE) and US subsidiary Brown & Williamson to either BAT Hong Kong (BATHK) directly or via Singapore depending on the brand and place of manufacture. The initial motivations to do so were to take advantage of a highly lucrative trade, and the belief that competing companies would do so if BAT did not. 

Tobacco industry documents released following litigation in the United States have demonstrated the complicity of British American Tobacco (BAT) in large-scale smuggling. Whereas previous work has illustrated the strategic importance of smuggling to BAT’s expansion in Asia and the former Soviet Union, this paper offers the first detailed analysis of corporate involvement in contraband to one country. The significance of this work is enhanced by China’s status as the world’s largest cigarette market, comprising 350 million smokers and one-third of cigarettes smoked. So far dominated by domestic producers, China is seen as the “ultimate prize” among the world’s emerging tobacco markets because of a potentially huge demand for foreign brands.

British American Tobacco to acquire Italian state tobacco company.  London, July 16 /PRNewswire/ — British American Tobacco (BAT) agreed to acquire ETI – Ente Tabacchi Italiani S.p.A., Italy’s state tobacco company, for EUR2.32 billion (Au1.6 billion).  The important acquisition will elevate British American Tobacco to the number two position in Italy, the second largest tobacco market in the European Union.

The scale of the enlarged operations will bring significant opportunities to compete and grow ETI’s local brands and British American Tobacco’s (BAT) international brands. Martin Broughton, Chairman of British American Tobacco, said: “This strategically important investment will transform our presence in one of Europe’s largest tobacco markets.  British American Tobacco (BAT) BATUKE cigarettes desire to control the worlds cigarette smuggling routes into highly lucative state controlled foreign Governments who have a monopoly on cigarette manufacturing like Iran China etc. is complicete in any harm that may have occured to Mr. Robert Levinson.

Bill Warner Private Investigator, SEX, CRIME, CHEATERS & TERRORISM at www.wbipi.com

About pibillwarner

Private Investigator Bill Warner owner of 'Bill Warner Investigations' a Private Detective Agency in Sarasota Fl since 1995, Fl Detective Agency License A 9500364. Website WWW.WBIPI.COM, Consultant to the FBI and ICE on smuggling of vehicles in support of terrorism. Consultant to the US Secret Service on money laundering cases.
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