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Iran Lawmaker Arrested To Serve Prison Term For Corruption

SAIPA, one of Iran's largest automakers, has been implicated in a sensational corruption case.

Judicial officials have detained former member of Iran's parliament Mohammad Azizi who must serve his 61 months sentence for corruption related to the country's beleaguered auto industry.

The same fate is awaiting another lawmaker, Fereydoun Ahmadi also sentenced to 61 months in the same case, Tasnim news agency reported on Wednesday.

Both lawmakers finished their parliamentary terms and their immunity on May 26, as the newly elected parliament convened its first session May 27.

The two lawmakers were tried for their role in a corruption case that made headlines in Iranian media for a long time. The two main defendants in the case were sentenced to death on May 19 on charges of causing disruption in the auto market, gold and forex markets and money laundering.

Fereydoun Ahmadi and Mohammad Azizi were arrested last summer and released on heavy bail a few days later. On May 19 Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Esmaili said the two lawmakers have been found guilty of "facilitation of disruption in auto sales system".

Ahmadi, a representative of Zanjan in the previous parliament, is a moderate conservative, while Azizi who was elected from Abhar in the same province, is known as a reformist politician.

Several others including a former CEO and the marketing deputy of SAIPA, one of Iran's largest automakers, as well as the security chief of the company, have also been found guilty and sentenced to prison terms.

Iran's carmakers are not private companies but are owned partly by the government and partly by state-controlled banks. Citizen shareholders have no say in how these companies are managed.

The main defendants, Vahid Behzadi dubbed as Iran's "Auto King" and his wife Najva Lashidayi, paid small amounts to the company as down payment for vehicles which they could sell at much higher prices due to high inflation.

The annual inflation in the previous Iranian year (March 21, 2019 - March 20, 2020) stood at 41.2 percent.

The company officials and lawmakers sentenced in the sensational case lobbied and facilitated the transactions.

In a separate development, the Economic Security Police of Tehran on Wednesday announced that it has discovered and confiscated 1,084 unused cars worth around 1,000 billion rials (approximately $24 million) that had been hidden in 13 parking lots. The make and model of cars has not been announced.