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Politician Threatens To Unmask Influential Borrowers Of Defunct Bank

Conservative politician Ahmad Tavakkoli who was a member of 9th parliament, undated.

A prominent Iranian conservative has threatened to disclose the names of those who borrowed huge sums of money from the bankrupt and now-defunct financial institution Samen al-Hojaj.

“Most of the people who borrowed from Samen al-Hojaj are veteran judges and children of prominent clergy and political figures,” former MP Ahmad Tavakkoli announced at a press conference on November 28.

Tavakkoli said if the debts were not repaid he would publicly disclose the names of the borrowers.

“The managing director of Samen al-Hojaj has a lot of influence. He’s so powerful that he managed to get an arrest warrant for central bank former Governor Mahmoud Bahmani (2008-2013),” Tavakkoli told reporters.

“Corrupt individuals attract and multiply people of their caliber,” the former MP remarked.

Samen al-Hojaj was launched in 2001 under the name of Samen al-Hojaj Cooperative for the Educated and soon expanded into a financial empire.

It began operations as a credit institution in 2007. The private institution had 450 branches across the country. There was no information on the company’s stakeholders on its website.

However, according to the Iran Students News Agency (ISNA), Samen al-Hojaj went bankrupt after investing in a stagnant housing market.

The managing director of the institution, Abol-Fazl Mir Ali, held membership on the boards of directors at the Iran National Oil Company and a gas and petrochemical company where former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Mohammad Hassan, one of the brothers of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have seats.

Earlier, several conservatives close to Khamenei had accused Hassan Rouhani’s presidential campaign of borrowing money from Samen al-Hojaj.

After its bankruptcy and insolvency, Samen al-Hojaj was taken over by Bank Parsian, which declared it will repay depositors’ losses in installments.

Protesters demanding their money back from the Caspian Bank, another bankrupted institution.
Protesters demanding their money back from the Caspian Bank, another bankrupted institution.

​Most of the legal violations by Samen al-Hojaj were committed in 2007 and onward, Tavakkoli affirmed, adding, “Yet, it was officially praised by Iran Central Bank governor in Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s administration.

Tavakkoli also disclosed that Mir Ali was placed under house arrest but should have been imprisoned.

Meanwhile, the former MP accused the Iran Central Bank of delay in declaring Samen al-Hojaj bankrupt and of not compensating depositors.

A significant number of financial and credit institutions have recently gone bankrupt in Iran, forcing depositors to hold protest rallies demanding their money.

Most of these gatherings are staged by people who claim they are victims of systematic deception and fraud by these credit institutions. They say their assets have been either plundered or they have received no interest for their deposits as promised by these institutions.

Most of these pseudo-credit institutions operate as unofficial banks that manage to evade regulations and proper registration.

In 2013, approximately 25 percent of the cash flow in the country’s financial market was handled by such institutions, which were not under the supervision of the central bank, according to Valiollah Seif, the current president of the central bank. Since then, he added, the number has dropped to 8 percent.

In August, Seif promised that all “illegal” financial cooperatives would be shut down by the end of the current Persian year (March 21, 2018). At the same time, he asked citizens not to be deceived by higher interest rates offered by unknown and illegal financial institutions.

Another top Iranian banker warned in October that half of Iran's banks were suffering from "toxic loans" and they should be shut down or merged.

The warning came too late for many investors who had already lost their savings.

Judicial officials now blame depositors for their losses and say the government is not responsible.

But credit institutions were practically allowed by the government to freely operate outside banking rules for more than two decades.

State media ran their commercials at prime time, and neither the executive nor judicial branches cautioned people to be wary.