Sources: US Kept $400M Until Iran Freed Prisoners They waited until plane was 'wheels up,' insider says By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff Posted Aug 18, 2016 2:23 AM CDT 42 comments Comments Iranian flags fly in front of a United Nations building. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak) (Newser) – Administration officials insist that a $400 million cash payment to Iran on the same day Tehran released US prisoners was not a ransom—but sources tell the Wall Street Journal that it was certainly treated like one. Officials and other insiders say the US held onto the cash until a Swiss Air Force plane left Iran with the freed Americans. Only then was an Iranian cargo plane with the cash allowed to take off. One official says that Iranian officials in Switzerland were allowed to take custody of the money only when the other plane was "wheels up" on its way to Geneva. The administration says the payment was part of a $1.7 billion settlement over a failed 1979 arms deal and that the other $1.3 billion has now been paid. One of the released prisoners, pastor Saeed Abedini, tells the Journal that the prisoners were kept waiting overnight for what Iranian authorities told them was the movement of another airplane, though administration officials say the plane was delayed because they were searching for the wife and mother of Jason Rezaian, another released prisoner. Republican leaders are planning to hold hearings on the payment this fall. "It's time for the Obama White House to drop the charade and admit it paid a $400 million ransom to the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement Wednesday that accused Obama of putting a price on the head of every US citizen overseas, reports the Hill.