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Khamenei's Favorite Preacher Accused of Land-Grabbing

Iran-- Alireza Panahian and Khamenei

An outspoken whistle-blowing journalist, Yashar Soltani, has challenged a preacher close to the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to explain a suspicious purchase of land he made in 2012.

A day earlier, Khamenei's close ally, the mid-ranking clergyman Alireza Panahian, said in an interview that an apartment was presented to him as a friendly gift.

Panahian, a preacher and favorite student of Khamenei, is also the head of Khamenei's "think tank for universities."

Responding to Panahian's claims, Soltani published a deed showing that Panahian's home was built on precious land that he acquired for a very low price from an Iranian living abroad.

Soltani shared a copy of the deed on his Telegram, adding, "What is the story behind buying 423 square meters (about 4560 square feet) of land in the lush and luxurious Saadatabad neighborhood. And how did you buy it from Ms. Layla Momtahan in 2012?"

According to the document, Panahian bought the 423 square meters of land for a mere 118 million rials (approximately $2800), or 280,000 rials (roughly $6.6) per square meter(about 10.7 feet).

"Why did the family of Momtahan, who left Iran during the [Islamic] Revolution, sell their property to you at a much lower price than its real value, and through Mesgarzadeh's mediation?" Soltani wondered.

Panahian has not yet responded to Soltani's allegations, remaining quiet except to argue that his residence on the property was an apartment, not a home, and had been a "gift from friends."

Panahian also claimed that, if his critics knew all the details of his life, "people would collect donations for me," and that he lives and dies by his friends' gifts.

Panahian's remarks triggered a barrage of reactions on social media, with his usage of the word "gift" reminding some of the former executive deputy chief of staff of two heads of the Islamic Republic Judiciary, Akbar Tabari. During Tabari's recent trial concerning his allegedly widespread financial corruption, Tabari told the court that whatever he had was a "gift from friends."