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Outspoken MP Demands Explanation On Judiciary's Funds

Iran's parliament session on Sunday, August 05, 2018.
Iran's parliament session on Sunday, August 05, 2018.

Outspoken Tehran MP Mahmoud Sadeghi has said that a number of employees of Iran’s General Inspection Organization (GIO) have been arrested for “accidentally” auditing bank accounts of the Justice Department.

Since 2009, when the GIO reported that Iranian banks had $38 billion worth of delinquent loans and most Iranians had difficulty obtaining small housing loans, 90 people managed to secure loans for housing facilities totaling $8 billion from banks. Sadeghi -- who has gained a reputation as a whistleblower among his peers -- accused the judiciary of illegally allocating the interest from the suspected savings accounts and using it to pay for judges’ accommodation and bonuses.

Based upon the constitution, the GIO -- which is linked to the judiciary -- controls and supervises government bodies and state-sponsored institutions.

According to Sadeghi, staff from Bank Melli (the national bank) who had expressed suspicion about the large amounts deposited into the judiciary’s savings accounts, had also been detained.

Member of Iranian parliament, Mahmud sadeghi, undated.
Member of Iranian parliament, Mahmud sadeghi, undated.

In 2016, Sadeghi had called on Chief Justice Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani to show bank statements from accounts under his name where the judiciary had been depositing funds, mainly composed of people’s bails.

“Which law allows state funds to be deposited into personal accounts?” Sadeghi had said at the time.

During a parliamentary Q&A on August 6, Sadeghi brought up the issue once again with finance minister Masoud Karbasian. Specifically, he asked for a “convincing” explanation on the legal bases of the accounts and their “religious legitimacy.” He also demanded to know how many such bank accounts exist, how much was deposited into them, and how and why the interest was disbursed.

“The lack of transparency in the state-run departments’ interaction with the people has created a rift between the nation and the ruling establishment and led to decreasing the public trust in the regime to its lowest level,” Sadeghi said.

Karbasian responded by saying the savings accounts -- 63 in total -- were opened, and some later closed, between 2008 and 2016. Three or four of the accounts have always been registered under the personal name of the chief justice.

Official entities in charge of supervising such cases have approved the legality of the accounts, he added.

Karbasian did not address Sadeghi’s demand for the release of the bank statements.

Based on the live radio report of the July 6 session, conservative MPs repeatedly disrupted the proceedings to attack their pro-reform colleague.

After being accused of insulting the regime as a whole, Sadeghi argued, “I did not mean to insult the judges [the main beneficiaries of the suspected saving accounts], I just wanted to highlight the necessity of respecting halal [permitted by the religion] and haram [forbidden] principles in the judicial procedures,” adding, “Is a judge who pockets people’s money capable and qualified to combat economic corruption?”

“If the judiciary needs more resources, it should approach the parliament for them and avoid satisfying its financial needs by illegally using people’s money,” he continued.

Sadeghi was previously indicted for raising the issue in 2016. He is currently free on bail.

The parliament’s first deputy speaker, Masoud Pezeshkian, who chaired the session, said he preferred not to put the issue to a vote, as it was not sufficiently transparent, while adding that the parliament was entitled to investigate it thoroughly.