By Hamideh Taati
The Iranian Regime’s Judiciary has announced what could be its largest embezzlement case ever at 6.6 billion Euros ($7.4 billion) as part of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s call to remove corruption in the country.
Like many other embezzlement scandals in recent years, this case focuses on schemes to bypass sanctions imposed by U.S., with more than a dozen executives and board members from petrochemical companies accused of committing financial crimes between 2010 and 2013.
The scheme involved establishing companies outside of Iran that sold petrochemical goods to foreign customers in order to profit from the country’s multitiered exchange rate. There are currently 11 suspects in custody for “disrupting Iran’s economic system”, while three will be tried in absentia, as they are believed to be abroad.
The defendants include Marjan Sheikholeslami Aleagha, the CEO of two Turkey-based trading companies, Reza Hamzelou, the former managing director of the Iranian Petrochemical Commercial Company (PCC), and Amin Ghorashi Sarvestani.
Sheikholeslami reportedly transferred proceeds from sales of Iranian petrochemical products, including form businesses linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to her trading companies’ accounts earning almost $9 million before fleeing to Canada.
At a hearing on March 7, a senior judicial official said that the defendants did not pay the foreign currency proceeds in full, despite multiple warnings from the Minister of Oil, instead selling the withheld foreign currency at the black market rate for three times the official exchange rate.
Nemat Ahmadi, a prominent Iranian lawyer, said: “The case is highly complex. … Based on Iranian law, exporters must repatriate their foreign currency revenues to the Central Bank and then receive the rial equivalent. The Central Bank currently has the same problem with a number of petrochemical exporters.”
The Rouhani administration has increasingly failed to get compel petrochemical exporters to return their hard currency proceeds since the rial began tumbling last year and regime’s Central Bank Governor Abdolnasser Hemmati warned that this would be “confronted”. Many petrochemical companies belong to the so-called semi-state sector, where state investment companies own the shares and the management is appointed through lobbying by the government, the parliament and third party individuals.
However, it is important to remember that the Iranian Regime is inherently corrupt – it’s why they won’t pass the laws necessary to avoid being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force. The reason the mullahs are going after these suspects (and inflicting the death penalty in spite of international law) is because it distracts from the true criminal, those who are stealing billions from the Iranian people on a daily basis: the mullahs.