But he was thwarted by the swift actions of a GCHQ listening station in Cyprus to brief the FCDO, which quickly dismissed the allegations. Whitehall officials were forced to act quickly last Sunday after being told about the broadcast on Iranian national television which boasted that the deal had been made, citing unnamed regime sources.
Under the terms of a secret protocol, the two are said to have met at an agreed location in Tehran to verify the details of any announcement of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release from prison.
And it was at this meeting that Iranian officials allegedly leapt up, arresting them both and adding another scalp to their list of prisoners.
Acting quickly, however, FCDO officials were able to use feedback channels to inform the agent that the news was deliberately misinformation and that the meeting did not take place.
“This plan could have succeeded without the rapid denial on Sunday by the Foreign Ministry that no money had been agreed for the release of Nazanin,” an intelligence source said last night.
“The Iranian official has aided Western intelligence agencies for a long time and an arrest would have had serious consequences for others in Iran. “
One example, the source said, involved smuggling in 2019 to Britain and then to the United States of a 47-year-old nuclear technician, reported by the Sunday Express.
Last night, Danny Steed, cybersecurity and intelligence research fellow at Henry Jackson Society think tanks, said: “Deliberate misinformation floating around to see if someone bites is a proven tactic.
Indeed, Iran has suffered from a series of “home goals” over the past three years.
Last week, lawyers for the regime’s former European spy chief Assadollah Assadi confirmed that they would not appeal a 20-year prison sentence for his role in organizing a conspiracy to the botched bomb in 2018.
Although working under the guise of the Third Consul at the Austrian Embassy of Iran in Vienna, Assadi was in fact head of the European office of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
Yet the plot to detonate an NCRI rally for a Free Iran in Paris has been intercepted after a series of spectacularly amateur blunders.
These included not realizing that the operation was compromised after she was stopped by police in Luxembourg in a supposedly routine operation and her photo was taken shortly after. delivering the explosives to accomplices in a Pizza Hut restaurant.
He was also out of Austria at the time of his arrest, denying him diplomatic immunity, and was caught carrying notebooks with many handwritten details about his entire spy ring across the Europe and the operational plans of the bomb plot.
Iran claims Britain owes it £ 400million for the purchase of 1,500 Chieftain tanks in the 1970s that were not delivered due to the Islamic revolution that overthrew it.
Addressing the matter last week, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said that as long as negotiations are ongoing, payment will never be tied to the release of prisoners.
“The reports we had over the weekend linking working with military contracts in the 1970s to the incarceration and arbitrary detention of British binationals, I think, were completely inappropriate – these are separate issues – one is much earlier than the other. “
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is an Anglo-Iranian citizen whose husband Richard and daughter Gabriella are based in the United Kingdom.
Last month, she was sentenced to another year in prison after serving a five-year sentence for espionage after being detained in 2016.