British spies smuggled an Iranian nuclear scientist to the UK across the English Channel, using the migrant crisis as cover, the Sunday Express newspaper reported Sunday.
According to the report, the 47-year-old nuclear technician, who has information about Iran's nuclear program, was brought to the UK on New Year's Eve in a joint operation involving the UK’s MI6, the American CIA, and the Israeli Mossad. The operation included a 3,000-mile journey across Europe, and a final 22-mile crossing of the English Channel in a dinghy, hidden among other illegal Iranian immigrants.
The Iranian scientist has reportedly been an Israeli asset for years. He is said to have helped plan the 2012 assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a nuclear scientist and director at Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment facility. Roshan was killed by a magnetic bomb attached to his car in Tehran.
In October 2018, the technician began worrying he was going to be found out, so a plan was put together to extract him from Iran, the report said. Both the CIA and MI6 wanted to talk to him after he was rescued to learn more about Iran's nuclear program.
In December, Mossad reportedly managed to smuggle the scientist from Iran to Turkey. After being debriefed, he was passed on to MI6 to begin his journey to Britain.
Since the UK remained in the Iran nuclear deal, from which the US had withdrawn in September 2018, MI6 had to hide their involvement in the operation to get the technician to Britain.
"This wasn't without its challenges," a source was quoted by the Sunday Express as saying. "His absence was noted quickly, and we were informed that a special unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had been dispatched."
"Once in France, the question of how to get him into Britain remained. We couldn't simply fly him in. Though unusual, it was determined infiltrating him into a group of fellow migrants preparing to cross the Channel by boat offered one solution."
According to the report, the dinghy, set to land in Dover, sailed off course and ended up 30 miles away in Lydd. British agents found the boat after motorists informed the police of 12 migrants on a beach. The technician was then taken to a safe house and questioned by MI6 and CIA agents, before being flown to the US.
"For our part, we were reassured during our interviews Iran seems to be sticking by the terms of the JCPOA. This is good news," the British source told the newspaper.