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Iran Sentences Couple To Death For Corruption In Auto And Forex Markets

Vahid Behzadi and Najva Lashidayi, defendants in disrupting Iran's foreign exchange market case.

Spokesman of Iran's Judiciary on Tuesday announced that a husband and wife have been sentenced to death on charges of causing disruption in the auto market, gold and forex markets and money laundering.

Vahid Behzadi who has been dubbed as "Auto King of Iran" by the Iranian media and his wife Najva Lashidaei were both sentenced to death in a case that involved more than fifty other defendants. Thirty-four of the defendants in the case including two lawmakers have also been found guilty of charges of assisting in causing disruption in the auto market.

The sentences are not final and can be appealed.

Given high inflation in the country which would push prices up when the manufacturing process was completed, with the help of industry insiders, the couple had pre-paid for more than 6,700 cars with the intention of selling them at a higher price later. They had also hoarded gold coins and bars, often used as investment by Iranians, and smuggled foreign currency out of the country.

The two lawmakers, Fereydoun Ahmadi and Mohammad Azizi, who were arrested last summer in connection with the case and released on heavy bail a few days later, have each been sentenced to sixty-one months in prison.

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 true companies but are owned partly by the government and partly by state-controlled banks. Citizen shareholders have no say in how companies are managed.

Special courts for dealing with corruption were formed two years ago by the request of Sadeq Larijani, the former Chief of the Judiciary and the blessing of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei due to widespread economic corruption.

Some of the defendants in economic corruption cases have been sentenced heavily but there are no official reports on the effect of the arrests and trials in cutting corruption in the country.

Anger over high-level corruption has been a major driver of protests in Iran which ranks 146 out of 180 countries according to Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perception Index.

Iranian Friday prayer leaders in their sermons often refer to corruption cases and call for heavy sentencing of defendants in such cases, including capital punishment, without mentioning the causes and roots of the extensive corruption plaguing the Iranian economy and society.