The US has pressed charges against an Iranian drug trafficker with alleged intelligence ties to Tehran. The accused, Naji Sharifi Zindashti, is said to have operated an assassination ring on behalf of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (Mois).
Zindashti, 49, and an unnamed co-conspirator from Iran were reportedly in contact with Damion Ryan, a 43-year-old member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in Canada, using an encrypted communication platform, SkyECC, in late 2020 and early 2021.
The indictment suggests that Zindashti instructed Ryan to assemble a team for a job in the US involving the murder of an Iranian defector and a female companion residing in Maryland. Ryan, finding the task challenging, reached out to another Canadian, Adam Pearson, who claimed to have trustworthy individuals capable of carrying out the job, with shooting being the preferred method.
Allegedly, Ryan suggested Pearson recruit two or three more people, and Pearson quoted a fee of $100,000 for the job. Ryan agreed, emphasizing that the execution needed to be excessive. The plan progressed, and by early February 2021, Zindashti informed Ryan that his organization was ready to move forward, settling on a fee of $350,000 plus $20,000 in travel expenses.
Both Ryan and Pearson are reported to be currently imprisoned in Canada on unrelated charges. The assistant attorney general, Matthew Olsen, emphasized that the Department of Justice would relentlessly pursue those involved in plotting murders on US soil.
The US and UK governments jointly announced measures against Zindashti’s network, stating that the network had been involved in various acts of transnational repression, including assassinations and kidnappings across multiple jurisdictions.
This is not the first time Iran has been accused of collaborating with the Hells Angels, as German police previously linked Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to attacks on synagogues in 2022 through a German-Iranian biker gang boss, Ramin Yektaparast.
Yektaparast had been based in Tehran since fleeing there following a murder and dismemberment case in 2014. US officials have previously charged suspects in separate alleged plots, including one to kill an Iranian-American journalist in New York City and another, also allegedly linked to Iran, to assassinate John Bolton, the former national security adviser in the Trump administration.