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Auto Parts Tycoon Tells Iran Court He Was Brave To Circumvent Sanctions

Auto parts tycoon Abbas Iravani in court. October 2, 2019

The main shareholder of the largest auto parts company in Iran, Abbas Iravani dismissed prosecution charges filed against him in his corruption trial telling the court on October 5 about his "bravery" in circumventing international sanctions imposed on Iran in 2011-2015.

Abbas Iravani is a renowned businessman, a close confidant of the ex-President of the Islamic Republic late Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and many other influential leaders, as well as an art collector. He is also a significant benefactor to Shiite religious causes and an organizer of religious events.

Iravani, the main shareholder of Ezam Automotive Parts, was charged with "Corruption on Earth" for "disrupting the Islamic Republic economy," "forming a gang for smuggling auto parts," and "paying bribes" to the customs officers.

Iravani is not the first businessman or insider to be charged with corruption, partly because of his efforts to circumvent sanctions. Earlier this year, more than a dozen people were indicted for their dealings in the petrochemical sector during international sanctions. Their activities were tacitly approved at the time and now they are charged with a host of financial fraud accusations.

Without any elaboration, the tycoon told the court on Saturday that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' (IRGC) fearsome Intelligence Organization has accused him of installing monitoring and spying gadgets on the computers of the cars used by Islamic Republic authorities.

While facing the death penalty, Iravani disclosed in the court, "The intelligence agents have told his detained former colleagues that if they confess, they would be entitled to commutation," of their sentences, adding, "Such confessions are blatantly against the law."

The outspoken hardline-judge and the head of the 15th branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran, Abolqassem (Abolghassem) Salavati, immediately interrupted Iravani, warning him, "Watch your words. You are here as a suspect, and not in a position to dismiss other suspects' confessions."

Meanwhile, Iravani insisted his case is being pursued only by the economic deputy of the IRGC Intelligence Organization, who had stormed his office and confiscated his documents and deeds to his assets.

"I have repeatedly asked for the return of my assets, but every time they accuse me of new charges. Ultimately, I stated in a letter that I was ready to transfer all my assets to the Islamic Republic," Iravani lamented without mentioning the outcome of his letter.

According to Iravani, the IRGC Intelligence Organization has also accused him of installing spying and monitoring tools on the Electronic Control Units (EUC) of the cars used by the Islamic Republic authorities.

"Thousands of EUCs are imported to Iran, and how could one determine which one would be installed on the cars owned by the authorities?" Iravani said in trying to question the prosecution’s charge.

The magnate's first court session was held on Wednesday, October 2, along with six other suspects. Two of the suspects are managers of the companies owned by Iravani, and the other four are customs officers.

According to the prosecutor, under Iravani's supervision, the six had formed an extensive network for smuggling auto parts.

"Assisted by his network, Iravani managed to professionally and systematically smuggle $764 million of auto parts," said the Prosecutor's representative adding, "Iravani, one of the most influential figures in Iran's economic sector, has over thirty trillion rials (approximately $714 million) overdue debt to different banks."

Furthermore, Iravani is accused of illegally pocketing forty trillion rials (roughly $950 million) from the national treasury.

Ezam Automotive Parts Group, managed by Iravani, consists of twelve large manufacturing companies and has been active in the auto parts industry since 1993. The group's subsidiary companies located in Tehran, East Azerbaijan, Guilan, Alborz, and Isfahan provinces manufacture auto parts for Iranian biggest carmakers, Iran Khodro and SAIPA.