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Iran’s Judiciary Makes Disclosures About Its Hidden Funds

Ayatollah Seyed Ebrahim Raeesi, Head of Iran's Judiciary has vowed to combat corruption. FILE PHOTO

In an unprecedented move, the Iranian Judiciary has explained for the first time how it has spent the interest earned on the bonds deposited into its accounts by those implicated in criminal and political cases.

However, analysts, political figures and social media users in Iran are still sceptical about these accounts and their transactions.

Mizan News, the official news agency of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Judiciary reported on Friday June 5 that the interest on the bonds for the year 1398 which ended on 20 March has been 4.3 trillion rials ($102 million) out of which some 4 trillion rials have already been spent, ostensibly on social and economic development.

During the past years, political figures close to former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, as well as a former reformist lawmaker, Mahmoud Sadeqi Sadeghi), had charged that the Judiciary had 60 accounts, all in the name of former Judiciary Chief Sadeqi Amoli Larijani with tens of billions of rials of bond money in them.

These are mainly bonds and bail deposited by those indicted for crimes in order to stay out of jail before their trial. Former lawmaker Faezeh Hashemi recently noted that there are a lot of people who have some kind of dossier at the Judiciary.

According to Mizan, the new Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeesi has reduced the number of those accounts to only five, increased the number of authorized signatories for these accounts to 3 individuals and has vowed to make transactions carried out by these accounts transparent.

Meanwhile, according to the agency, "in a bid to make the Judiciary transparent, accountable and disciplined, Raeesi had said that reports on the transaction would be submitted to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the people".

The Judiciary has explained "the origin of the funds in these accounts" as well as "the way the earned interest is spent," adding that all the bonds are deposited into the Treasury and the Judiciary cannot withdraw any sums from the accounts. It is only the interest on these accounts that can be paid back to the Judiciary via the government-owned Bank Melli.

The Judiciary explained that interest on these accounts has been spent mainly in provinces of the country to cover development as well as administrative, training, automation and travel costs and provision of buildings and infrastructure as per financial statements published on Mizan News.

Upon the publication of the report on Mizan News, former Reformist lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeqi wrote in a series of tweet: "This was a step forward. The next step is to have the accounts audited by the State Auditing Office based on Article 55 of the Constitution and to publish the reports of the audits every year."

Dozens of comments under this tweet were critical of Sadeqi. Some called for an investigation on the amount of losses incurred by the nation as a result of having individuals such as Sadeqi in the parliament as their representatives.

Others demanded transparency on the performance of former lawmakers during the previous round of the Iranian Parliament (Majles) which ended in late May.

In another tweet, Radio Farda Iran Analyst Reza Haqiqatnezhad reminded that "The interest on the Judiciary's account is haram [prohibited according to religious rules]." He called the report "outrageous" as if a thief is reporting to those he robbed how he spent what he had stolen.

The tweet was "liked" by nearly a thousand readers within an hour and was retweeted nearly 50 times within the same time. However, among many who supported the argument, some comments were critical of Haqiqatnezhad, including one that said that what the Judiciary did was lawful, but whether it was haram [prohibited] or halal [permitted by religious rules] is a matter that required a religious decree.