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Billions Of Dollars Involved In Two Corruption Trials In Iran

Reza Hamzelou the main figure in the huge petrochemicals exporting scandal in Iran speaking in the court. March 2019
Reza Hamzelou the main figure in the huge petrochemicals exporting scandal in Iran speaking in the court. March 2019

A statement made by the National Iranian Petrochemical Industries Company (NIPIC) on Wednesday March 13, revealed that the Petrochemical Commercial Company (PCC), the center-piece of a major financial scandal being investigated at a Tehran court, has failed to return 500 million euros of its debts since 2013.

This clearly contradicts an earlier statement by Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jaafari Dolatabadi who had insisted there was no embezzlement in the case and the suspects simply “mishandled funds” from export of petrochemicals to the tune of interest on 4 million euros in their accounts.

Several PCC managers are among the suspects in the financial corruption case linked to Iran's sanction-busting operations currently being investigated for the alleged corruption which took place before the 2015 nuclear deal ended international sanctions.

The statement added that the suspects returned 3.2 billion euros in 2011 and 622 million euros earned the following years through exporting petrochemical products in local currency, instead of euros to the government making illegal profits in the process.

In addition, the suspects took advantage of the situation of sanctions and kept the foreign currency resulting from exports in their own accounts, said the statement, adding that they pocketed the interest to those sums.

The NIPIC characterized the court case against PCC managers as "breach of trust." This might confirm the prosecutor's views about the nature of the case, except for the claim that they have not returned 500 million dollars to the Iranian producers of the petrochemicals.

The court has brought charges against 14 individuals, three of whom who are living abroad and are represented by their lawyers, said the prosecutor. It is still not known if the lawyers have been appointed by the suspects or the court.

Tehran prosecutor Dolatabadi added that a major part of the case is about a "runaway suspect" he has named as Marjan Sheikholeslami, who has been referred to in the indictment as the main partner of Reza Hamzehlou, the prime suspect.

Iran's Prosecutor-general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said on Wednesday that he has called on Interpol to extradite Shikholeslami from Canada where she lives.

Mizan News website, close to the Iranian Judiciary, which has extensively reported on the case, did not say anything about the other two suspects living abroad.

While the PCC case awaits a third court session at a date which has not been announced, Iranian official news agency IRNA, has reported another corruption case on Wednesday involving two financial institutions Alborz and Valiasr that have mishandled deposits made by 91,000 investors between 2012 and 2017.

Amir Hossein Azad (L), charged in banking corruption case. Undated
Amir Hossein Azad (L), charged in banking corruption case. Undated

The money involved is 2,590 trillion rials ($1.07 billion) for Alborz and 140 trillion rials ($20 million) for Valiasr. The dollar amounts are calculated here with the much higher current exchange rate. During the years when the actual events happened, the true dollar value of these amounts would have been four-fold.

IRNA has named the prime suspect in this case as Amir Hossein Azad, whose father Ali Mohammad Azad has been a provincial governor-general in the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The charge made against the suspects in this case is "Knowingly spreading Corruption on Earth through disrupting the economic system." Corruption on Earth is a charge that is likely to carry death sentence.

The dossier for this case includes 353 volumes and one of the judges is handling cases of 6,036 investors who have lost their money.

According to IRNA, the Rouhani administration has opened a credit line with two major banks to compensate for the investors' losses. This is symptomatic of Iran's unregulated and corrupt banking system, when well-connected bank owners swindle the depositors and the government has to compensate them with public money.