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Former Bank Chief To Be Tried In Absentia Over Embezzling Billions

Mahmoud Reza Khavari, former head of Bank Melli Iran who is still at large for being a part of bank corruption case, undated.

The former chairman of Bank Melli Iran, Mahmoud Reza Khavari, will be tried in absentia on November 21, reported the judiciary’s official news website, Mizan.

The trial will take place at the Islamic Revolutionary Court, Mizan cited the chief of Tehran’s justice department as saying on October 8.

Khavari was involved in Iran’s biggest embezzlement case of roughly $2.6 billion, a fraud involving the use of bogus documents to obtain credit from eight Iranian banks to purchase state-owned companies over a reported four-year period, reported the semi-official Mehr News Agency (MNA).

Khavari, became a Canadian citizen in 2005 and reportedly owned a home in Toronto, fled to Canada in 2011 to join his family. Despite Tehran’s frequent official requests, Canada has refused to extradite him, citing the absence of a bilateral extradition treaty with Iran.

But immediately after his flight to Canada Khavari was not so sure what would happen to him. He reportedly gave his $3 million home to his daughter for the token price of two dollars.

Interpol had placed him on its red notice wanted list in February 2013 but removed his name in October 2016.

The chief of Iran's branch of Interpol said the removal of the information about Khavari from the Interpol public portal does not mean the red notice against him has been lifted.

“The red notice is accessible and citable in Interpol’s main system to Interpol branches in all countries. The red notice has been only removed from the organization’s public portal, and that only happens in the cases where the Interpol branch in the individual’s country of residence has established a connection with the branch that issued the red notice,” MNA quoted General Massoud Rezvani as saying.

“In the case of Khavari’s travel to other countries, the police department of the country is obliged to detain him based on the red notice being still active in their system and immediately inform the Interpol branch in Tehran,” he said.

However, judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei admitted last month that Tehran’s efforts for Khavari’s extradition through Interpol had been unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Ejei had advised Khavari to voluntarily return to Tehran since he would benefit from defending his innocence in a court of law.

Khavari has yet to respond to Ejei’s advice.

The fugitive banker was appointed as chairman of Bank Melli Iran during Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s second-term presidency in 2011.

Khavari is accused of embezzlement, fraud, taking bribes, and illegal acquisition of property.

The main convict in Khavari’s legal case was Iranian businessman Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, once generally believed to be the richest man in the country.

Khosravi, also known as Amir Mansour Aria, was hanged for his part in the same 2011 embezzlement scandal.

The scandal involved using forged documents to fraudulently buy assets that included major state-owned companies around Iran.

Bank Melli, which Khavari led as its chairman of the board and managing director, was accused of facilitating fraudulent payments, the Toronto Star reported in October 2011.

In addition to being linked to the fraud scandal, Khavari's bank has been blacklisted for years by Canada, the United States, and the European Union, which allege that the bank used shell companies and other deceptive practices to finance terrorism and fund Iran's nuclear and missile programs, Canada’s Globe and Mail reported in November 2011.

Khavari has also been embroiled in financial disputes and lawsuits in Canada. Apparently, he has real estate investments running into tens of millions of dollars.

According to the Globe and Mail, U.S. security analysts said Khavari was a trove of intelligence about illicit Iranian banking and had called on Canadian officials to question him.

Immediately after the scandal, Iran legally barred citizens with dual nationality from directing its banks.