Mohammad Hossein Rostami, a hardline activist in jail in Iran, has released an audio file in which he makes several claims about a network operating under IRGC Intelligence Chief Hossein Taeb that runs illegal businesses and frames high-profile potential opponents in corruption scandals.
Rostami, the former editor of ultraconservative Ammaryoun website, was arrested in 2016 on charges of sending information to an opposition Telegram social media channel. However, he says in the audio recording that he was arrested because he had made revelations about Taeb, his network and its activities.
It is interesting to note that circles close to former hardliner president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have published the audio recording apparently sent from prison.
Some of Rostami's claims may be impossible to verify, while quite a few of them may be assessed based on available data.
An Intelligence Ministry Drop-Out
There have been many reports during the past two decades about Taeb's removal from his post at the Intelligence Ministry where he first served.
Former Majles Speaker Mehdi Karroubi wrote in August 2009 that Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani helped dismiss Taeb from the Intelligence Ministry. Iran newspaper wrote in October 2009 that "the reason for Taeb's dismissal was his attempt to frame one of Rafsanjani's children."
But in the past two decades the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence organization has expanding and growing more powerful than the Intelligence Ministry in domestic surveillance and arrests. This is where Taeb found his new home.
Rostami asks in the audio: "How can an Intelligence Ministry flunky become the head of a parallel security organization? How can he be so powerful that he can intervene in any matter?"
Taeb was reportedly the Intelligence Ministry's Counter-Intelligence Chief before he was fired. This has also been verified by Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who said in a 2018 video that Taeb was "kicked out of the Intelligence Ministry," but later was given "full authority" as IRGC Intelligence Chief.
Before becoming the IRGC Intelligence Chief in 2009, Taeb worked for some time at Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's office as deputy coordinator.
Rostami points out Taeb's link to Yas Holding, an IRGC affiliate operating in Iran's housing market. Its chief managers were Mahmoud Seyf aka Mohsen Sajjadinia, Jamaleddin Abroumand and Masoud Mehrdadi. The holding had hefty contracts with various entities including the Tehran Municipality. Mehrdadi and Seyf were arrested on charges of corruption and were dismissed from the holding in 2018.
Under the aegis of the IRGC, the members of the holding circumvented sanctions to purchase night-vision cameras and imported machinery to forge banknotes to help the Houthis in Yemen, the U.S. Department of Treasury revealed in 2017.
Former State TV Chief Mohammad Sarafraz has revealed the links between the holding, its managers and Taeb in a book he recently published online.
Taking A German Businessman Hostage
Rostami claims elsewhere in the audio that simultaneously with an Iranian intelligence official's visit to Germany in the 1990s, Taeb took a German businessman and his girlfriend hostage.
In September 1997, Helmut Hofer, a German businessman who sold auto parts to Iran was arrested during his third visit to Iran at the airport for his alleged relationship with an Iranian girl in Mashad. Hofer believes it was a honey trap laid by Iranian intelligence in order to arrange a prisoner swap and bring back Kazem Darabi, an Iranian assassin in jail in Germany back to Iran.
However, Taeb's role in this case is not clear as he did not have a key position in the Iranian Intelligence at the time.
'Winning' State TV Tenders
Rostami alleges that according to former State TV Chief Sarafraz, Taeb was involved in intimidating those who bid for a tender with the state TV in order to win a 16.5 trillion rials (around $500 million at the time). Sarafraz verified that in a video in the Summer of 2019.
Framing Rouhani's Brother, Others
Rostami also asks questions about a case of bribery which could have been part of a framing conspiracy involving Rasoul Danialzadeh aka Iran's King of Steel.
According to Hosseinali Hajideligani, a member of the Iranian Parliament, Danialzadeh who owed 20 trillion rials ($476 million at the government rate) to an Iranian bank gave a 160 billion rial ($3.7 million) house to the wife of Hossein Fereydoun, President Rouhani's brother as well as 20 billion rials ($473,000) to his sister's husband. Fereydoun says the case was manufactured against him based on eavesdropping on the President's office by the IRGC Intelligence Organization.
A similar case was apparently made up against Akbar Tabari who was close to former Judiciary Chief Sadeq Larijani. In this case, Danialzadeh is said to have given a 700 square meter house to former Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi and a 1,100 square meter penthouse to Tabari. Dolatabadi has been removed from his post and Tabari is now in jail.
Danialzadeh later fled the country and his whereabouts are not known. Former MP Alireza Zakani has pointed out that the IRGC Intelligence may have helped him flee after he played his part in framing individuals close to Rouhani and Larijani. It is yet to be known if the IRGC Intelligence and its chief Taeb sent Danialzadeh out of the country after they used him in framing cases. These are tough questions that may take years to answer after some light can be shed on the dungeon of corruption in Iran.