Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is taking heat from conservatives over his recent remark that “money laundering is rampant in the Islamic Republic.”
The pressure has increased to a level that the spokesman of the foreign ministry, Bahram Ghasemi had to react on Monday in his press briefing.
“For sure, I reject this rumor. These are manufactured, processed and spread by certain circles. Mr. Zarif is energetically busy with his work. He was in parliament yesterday and today he is hosting a foreign delegation”.
He added, “I imagine these rumors are calculated and purposeful. Their target is the foreign ministry and specifically the minister [Zarif]. This is not the first time that these rumors are spread in social media and today even by some media outlets”.
A hardline politician and a member of parliament’s national security commission, Javad Karimi Ghodousi is one of the persons who claims he has “partly credible” information that Zarif has already resigned or will do so soon. He also told Fars news agency, “Zarif is the source of many entanglements for the country”.
The spokesman of the Iranian judiciary Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, has demanded Zarif present evidence to support his claims of endemic money laundering problems in the country.
The foreign ministry spokesman reacted to rumors that Ejei has sent a letter to Zarif, requesting an explanation for his corruption remarks. Ghasemi said, “We have not received any requests from the distinguished spokesman of the Judiciary”.
Zarif had told a local website November 11 that those who profit from money laundering in Iran are spending millions of dollars to prevent the passage of legislation requiring more financial transparency. The foreign minister went on to accuse state-run agencies that he refrained from naming, of mounting a campaign against legislation intended to bring Iran in line with international rules and regulations.
.Known collectively in Iran as the Palermo Bills, the legislation would pave the way for the country to meet the requirements of international organizations for financial transparency and measures to prevent financing terrorism.
Originally proposed by President Hassan Rouhani in November last year, the bills have met staunch resistance from hardliners, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who says the agreements have been “cooked up” by foreign enemies.
A hardline MP Mohammad Dehqan, lambasted Zarif in a fiery speech before Parliament, saying, "Mr. Zarif you have disgraced the Islamic Republic by your irrational and absurd comments."
Dehqan, who is the deputy chairman of a parliamentary faction supporting the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, went on to say, that any hope of passing the Palermo Bills was now lost as a result of Zarif’s “hideous and unwarranted comments.”
Several other conservative MPs have demanded Zarif provide evidence to support his claims of widespread corruption.
Tasnim, a website run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), reported November 18 that six MPs have signed a petition calling for Zarif’s removal from office. The signatories are close allies of the ultra-conservative Front of Islamic Revolution Stability. No official confirmation exists about a parliamentary move to impeach Zarif.
IRGC commanders, Friday Prayer Leaders across Iran, and other figures appointed by the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have repeatedly opposed the passage of the UN-sponsored conventions against financing international terrorism and money laundering.
The opponents of the Palermo Bills argue that their implementation is a threat to Iran’s security. Analysts say the real fear in circles loyal to the Supreme Leader is that adhering to the financial transparency requirements would prevent Iran from financially supporting the Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas militant groups.
The FATF has given Tehran until February to either endorse the UNTOC or be added to its “blacklist” of countries refusing to cooperate in the fight against money laundering and financing terrorism. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is urging Tehran to endorse the bills before the deadline set by FATF.