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Man Accused Of Big Fraud In Teachers' Fund Flees Iran

Officials of Iranian Teachers Fund (including former CEO Shahabeddin Ghandali) in their meeting on October 2015.

A person accused of roughly $146 million overdue payback related to the Teachers Savings Fund, TSF scandal has fled Iran, says a member of parliament.

Jabbar Kouchakinejad who is a member of parliament’s Education and Research Commission divulged the news in an interview with Iran Labor News Agency, ILNA, on Monday, October 30.

When in 2013 the fund’s control was transferred from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government to the new administration, another parliament member claimed that one billion dollars was missing; listed as “non-receivable assets”.

Later, conservatives accused the head of the fund, appointed by the new president, Hassan Rouhani of being responsible for at least part of the missing funds.

Both factions of the Islamic Republic regime, the reformists and conservatives now accuse one another of allowing fraud to take place.

But it is logical to assume that a such a large-scale fraud could not have happened over night and it must have started years ago.

The TSF is an investment vehicle for retired teachers, who invest their savings in one basket, which then tries to lend the money to businesses and return some profit to the teachers.

Most of the accused borrowed money from the fund and did not pay back.

Now, the whistle blowing MP, Kouchakinejad says that actually 20 people have been arrested since the start of the scandal, but most of them have been released with the condition that they’ll pay back what they owe to the fund.

The HQ of Iran's teachers saving fund, undated.
The HQ of Iran's teachers saving fund, undated.

However, he says that some of the accused, including a man identified as Mr. “M”, have already fled Iran.

Without revealing the full name of the accused, Kouchakinejad maintained, “Mr. M’s lawyer is currently trying to lay the groundwork for his return and settling his nearly four to five trillion rials (roughly up to $146 million) overdue debt”.

Another aspect of the scandal is that although many people have been arrested and identified as debtors to the fund, no names have been released.

This is a typical practice in the Islamic Republic. In large fraud cases, rarely the full names of the accused are announced, ostensibly to protect them in case their guilt is not proven in the end.

But some say that in reality, powerful and well-connected people are involved in fraud and different political factions make sure the identities of their supporters are not exposed.

Working teachers complain that they are one of the most neglected government employees, with minimal salaries and coping with difficult conditions. Security forces persecute those who try to organize the teachers to demand their rights.

Earlier, Kouchakinejad had reported that many of the accused connected with the TSF case have been dragged out of planes while trying to flee the country.

Citing the MP, ILNA reports that others might be detained and questioned as well, if new clues emerge.

Kouchakinejad described the extent of fraud related to the Teachers Savings Fund as “high”, amounting to fourteen trillion to fifteen trillion rials (roughly $408 million to $440 million).

Meanwhile, he also believes that the extent of the fraud might be much larger; had the other hidden layers of the case been revealed.

The Teachers Deposit Fund has more than 800,000 members who receive annual interest on their investment.