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Iran's Former Anti-Narcotics Chief Says 'Dirty Money' Influences Elections

Iranians register for the upcoming parliamentary elections at the Interior Ministry in Tehran, December 1, 2019

The former head of Iran's Drug Control Headquarters (DCH), Ali Hashemi, has confirmed that "dirty money" has had a role in deciding the country's parliamentary elections.

The issue was initially raised five years ago by the Minister of Interior, Abdol-Reza Rahmani Fazli.

"A part of the dirty money collected in the narcotics market and drug smuggling resurfaces on the political stage, through financial support to candidates, and for urging members of parliament to endorse some particular bills and motions," Rahmani Fazli had divulged.

Speaking to the state-run Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA), on Saturday, the head of Iran's Drug Control Headquarters (DCH) in the government of former President Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) insisted that under a barrage of criticism from lawmakers, Rahmani Fazli had been forced to take back his comments.

"Investigating the wealth of a detained international drug smuggler verified the fact that some of his dirty money was directed toward several members of Majles (Iranian parliament)," Ali Hashemi disclosed, without further elaboration.

The narcotics Mafia, Hashemi asserted, can easily win a parliamentary seat for a candidate in some of the smaller cities by spending $300,000.

Earlier, in September 2019, the Guardian Council's (GC) spokesman, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, also admitted that "dirty money" had played a crucial role in elections in many constituencies across Iran.

"Better laws are required to address the problem of dirty money in deciding elections," Kadkhodaei insisted.

Three days later, the 91-year-old chairman of the GC, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, also affirmed, "Several people are seeking parliamentary seats through spending dirty money, while such crime is the GC's red line."

Nonetheless, neither Jannati, nor Kadkhodaei defined what is dirty money or disclosed the details of the GC's plan to eliminate its role in elections, and why the problem had been ignored in the past.

The 12-member GC, which is empowered to vet legislation and oversee elections, is made up of religious jurists and lawyers and, in many ways, acts as an upper legislative body in the Islamic Republic establishment.

The Islamic Republic has not joined the international conventions to combat money laundering. At the same time, a local bill on financial transparency has also been shelved.

The eleventh Islamic Parliament elections in Iran will be held on February 21, 2020.