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After Recent Protests, Iran Officials Highlight Corruption

Iran’s judicial spokesman has revealed that certain individuals have been arrested and several companies closed down over the alleged abuse of subsidized dollars and price violations on the cellphone market.

“Documents have been found that show a number of serious violations have been made on the cellphone market," mid-ranking cleric Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei said during his weekly press briefing on July 15.

The news was welcomed by Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi.

However, Azari Jahromi insisted that a significant part of the “violator list” has yet to be published.

According to a list he published recently, certain companies that had received foreign currency at the official rate (42,000 rials per U.S. dollar) to import cellphones, sold their goods at a higher price by taking advantage of the value of the dollar and other currencies on the black market (80,000 rials per dollar).

In a tweet posted on July 15, Azari Jahromi praised the judiciary’s response to the list, describing it as moving in the “proper direction."

The ICT minister also tweeted, “However, the publication of the whole list [of individuals and companies that have taken the advantage of the situation] as well as applying public opinion and supervision in uncovering crimes are of utmost importance.”

Hours earlier, Mohseni Ejei had announced that judiciary head Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani had ordered Tehran’s prosecutor-General to appoint special investigators to deal with those who have disrupted the foreign currency and cellphone markets and companies that used foreign currencies at the official rate to import luxury vehicles.”

Without elaboration, Mohseni Ejei also reported that a number of companies accused of using subsidized dollars for their owners’ benefit have been sealed off.

Tehran has witnessed several demonstrations against the chaos of the local foreign exchange market over the past three weeks.

The Rouhani administration has been busy in the past three weeks to present itself as the vanguard force in fighting corruption.

In the meantime, the government is struggling with a scandal related to hundreds of cars illegally imported to Iran.

Nearly 6,000 foreign-made vehicles were illegally ordered between July 19 and December 30, 2017, while the Industry Ministry’s official website for the registration of vehicle import requests was reportedly hacked and not functioning at the time.

The head of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization (TPO), Mojtaba Khosrotaj, admitted nearly two months ago that orders for importing up to 6,000 vehicles had been illegally registered last year.

Immediately after Khosrotaj’s comments, the head of the General Inspection Organization of Iran, Nasser Seraj, maintained that the illegal orders were registered after the Industry Ministry’s official website had been hacked.

Iran's State Shari’a Penal Authority (SSPA) confirmed on July 5 that “organized crime” had played a role in government-subsidized vehicle imports.

“A legal case has been filed against the offenders and delivered to the Public Prosecutor’s Office,” the SSPA announced on July 5.

According to the government’s official website, “President Rouhani has instructed his deputies and ministers to look into the issue of illegal import and sale of foreign cars.”

Moreover, Rouhani has called on the head of the judiciary to “work on the case meticulously, out of turn, and the offenders be held accountable, their assets and illegitimate enormous profits returned back to the treasury.”