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Hassan Rouhani Government Accused Of Involvement in Smuggling

A senior member of Iran’s Parliament has accused Hassan Rouhani’s government of being involved in smuggling. “A number of governmental institutions are directly or indirectly involved in smuggling,” Hassan Norouzi, spokesman for the parliament’s Judiciary Committee, maintained on Saturday July 1.

In an interview with Fars News Agency (FNA), a website close to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Norouzi added that some ministers are involved in smuggling to run companies and factories. Not mentioning any names, Norouzi also accused the daughter of a Rouhani cabinet minister of smuggling.

Member of Iranian Parliament and Spokesman for the Parliament's Judiciary Committee has accused Hassan Rouhani's administration of being involved in smuggling.
Member of Iranian Parliament and Spokesman for the Parliament's Judiciary Committee has accused Hassan Rouhani's administration of being involved in smuggling.

The spokesman for the Judiciary Committee was referring to Minister of Education Fakhruddin Ahmadi Danesh-Ashtiani, whose daughter was accused of smuggling Italian contraband garments into Iran. She has been officially acquitted of all charges.

In 2016, the overall volume of smuggled goods to Iran amounted to $15.5 billion, according to Qassem Khorshidi, spokesman for the headquarters against goods and currency smuggling, cited on Tasnim News website. That number has now shrunk by almost three billion dollars.

Despite the decrease mentioned by Mr. Khorshidi, now Hassan Norouzi says some government officials are still active in smuggling goods. “A number of individuals who have formerly been involved in [positions related to] smuggling matters are using their experience for their own benefit,” claimed Norouzi.

President Rouhani has rebuffed accusations against his administration and blames the IRGC of being the main culprit.

There’s a corrupt organ who is capable of smuggling commodities into Iran and does not allow the country to prosper.
President Hassan Rouhani, in 2015 referring to IRGC's involvement in smuggling activities

His predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in his second term accused the IRGC of smuggling, referring to them as “our smuggler brothers”.

“Last year, the volume of goods smuggled out of Iran compared with 2013 showed a 95% drop,” said Khorshidi, adding, “it’s thanks to the amendments made to fix fuel prices in Iran, the fall of oil prices on international markets, the implementation of fuel consumption systems and distribution of liquid gas to various parts of the country”.

However, Khorshidi acknowledged “the existence of inefficiencies in executing tax exemption law,” He further noted, “blind spots in Iran’s official border points are points smugglers abuse for illegally bringing commodities and contraband into the country.”

Some of those "blind spots" have been intentionally created for the IRGC's activities, according to some experts in Iran. The military empire has been center stage in several controversial cases of smuggling in Iran.

In the early 2000s, then Parliament Speaker Mahdi Karroubi was the first high-ranking whistle blower to highlight the IRGC’s role in Iran’s underground economy. He accused it of having tens of unauthorized ports and docks to smuggle different goods into Iran.

The IRGC has of course denied it is involved in any smuggling activities. After Ahmadined’s famous accusation against the IRGC made headlines in 2011, the military empire’s commander, Major-General Mohammad Ali Ja’afari, duly accused the other side of corruption. “This is a deviated discussion”, Ja’afari said.

“We believe those who raise such issues are themselves beneficiaries [in smuggling goods].”

For the time being, it seems, smuggling is something both sides are accusing each other of and the so-called "blind spots" remain as active as ever in letting contraband into the country.