Abbas Yazdanpanah Yazdi Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: An Iranian athlete is being questioned in the UAE in connection with the kidnap of a British-Iranian businessman, sources told Gulf News on Sunday.

Paintball player Rahmat Asadi, 32, who was arrested in Bangkok early last week and later handed over to the UAE security forces.

A source familiar with the case says he is a “key member of a four-man gang that kidnapped Abbas Yazdi, a 44-year-old businessman who owns a general trading company in Dubai”.

Asadi travelled to Bangkok with the Datis team from Iran to take part in an Asian Paintball Championship, according to Thai media.

“Asadi’s confessions were identical to the intelligence gathered by the UAE security forces. Once the investigation is over, the Iranian athlete will be referred to the prosecution for trial,” the source revealed.

The source added that UAE security forces were on the lookout for three other Iranian suspects.

‘All-points alert’

“An all-points alert has been issued across the country for the three dangerous suspects,” the source said.

Yazdi went missing on June 25 and his wife, Atena, blamed the UK government for his disappearance.

The businessman’s wife believes her husband’s abduction may have been linked to political infighting in Iran between hardliners and their more moderate rivals because of his friendship with the son of former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The source said all diplomatic procedures required had been met and the Iranian and UK authorities had been notified.

The news of the Iranian athlete’s capture was widely covered by Thai media quoting local security sources as saying Asadi was “dangerous, highly trained with links to terrorist groups”.

Three Iranian suspects detained in January in connection with the case, one of whom died in custody, were just facilitators and helped with the logistics of the operation, said the source.

The source did not disclose the whereabouts or the condition of Yazdi, who is thought to have been kidnapped by Iranian intelligence agents last June after the Serious Fraud Office passed on his private business documents to Iran. After Yazdi disappeared, the family was given police protection in Britain, but have since returned to Dubai.

Yazdi was born in Iran but fled after he was imprisoned there at the age of 24. His family says he was a victim of political infighting between moderates and hardliners in the Islamic state. He moved to Britain in the 1990s and the couple’s children were born in London.

In 2003, Yazdi’s private business records were reportedly seized by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) at the request of the Norwegian authorities, who were investigating allegations of bribery. There were no charges against Yazdi. The following year he moved his family to Dubai.

Yazdi discovered that the SFO passed his records on to the Iranian state in several batches over a period of five years when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was President.