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Iran Minister Shocked By $250 Billion Of Import Requests

Iran -- Vehicle imports in Kangan port in Bushehr province. File photo

Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Business says, fluctuations in the local forex market in the past four months have tripled the number of applications for import licenses worth $250 billion dollar.

Describing the figure as “unbelievable”, Mohammad Shariatmadari has insisted that a “number of” profiteering individuals are trying to “fish in troubled waters”, referring to the current currency and economic crisis.

The figure of $250 billion is almost triple of Iran's annual oil income.

Import applications mean requests by importers to receive cheaper, subsidized dollars or other hard currencies from the government.

President Hassan Rouhani’s new forex policy, fixing the dollar’s official rate at 42,000 rials, encouraged scores of individuals and companies to apply for import licenses, receiving millions of subsidized dollars, bringing in goods into the country and sell them on the basis of dollar’s value in the non-governmental forex market, i.e. one dollar against more than 100,000 rials.

Four months later, the Minister of Industry says, the process must stop and from now on, the “qualification” and “business record” of whoever applies for import dollars should be thoroughly vetted.

Otherwise, Shariatmadari has admitted that the problem of these “uncommon” number of requests will never be addressed.

Shariatmadari’s remarks are published at a time that the Islamic Republic’s Police repeatedly reports that it has arrested scores of individuals charged with “disrupting forex market” and benefitting from subsidized dollars for importing goods and selling them on the basis of dollar’s value in the much higher, non-governmental forex market.

Meanwhile, commander of Basij militia, General Gholamhossein Gheibparvar has maintained that his forces have discovered several warehouses full of cars, rice and construction material across the country and arrested (an unknown number of) individuals who intended profiteering through hoarding goods.

Iran’s judicial spokesman has also disclosed 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 (100,000 rials per dollar).