The head of the Islamic Republic's judiciary has once again threatened to mercilessly punish corrupt business interests and individuals seeking to gain from Iran’s crippling economic downturn.
"Those who are after financial windfalls will be punished without any compassion,” Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani said November 5, the day after the second round of U.S. sanctions against Iran took effect. "Those who are seeking to fish in troubled waters should know that the judiciary, as one of the pillars of the Islamic Republic's establishment, will be waiting for them."
In this second round of sanctions, Washington is targeting Iran's oil industry, banking system, airlines, and financial institutions.
Iran’s economy had been struggling even before President Trump's decision to withdraw from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers in May 2018. Most notably, the value of Iran’s national currency, the rial, has plummeted against the dollar.
Larijani accused the “enemy” (code for the U.S.) of disrupting Iran’s economy and sowing the seeds of division between the ruling Islamic system and the people of Iran.
Iran’s economic woes have prompted widespread protest rallies across the country over the last year. They began as a response to the the financial hardships experienced by average Iranians, but quickly evolved into broader anti-establishment protests. Hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested and sentenced to long prison terms and even death.
Anger over high-level corruption was a major driver of the protests and is a serious problem in Iran, which ranks 130 out of 180 countries according to Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perception Index.
At a meeting with judiciary officials June 27, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on the judiciary to “confront those who disrupt economic security.”
“The current special economic conditions should be considered an economic war,” Larijani wrote in an open letter to Khamenei, calling for the establishment of "special courts" to deal quickly with “financial crimes.”
Khamenei agreed with Larijani’s proposal, telling state-run TV, “The purpose (of the courts) should be to punish those guilty of corrupt economic practices quickly and fairly.”
While corruption has been rife in Iran for years, in reaction to the worsening economic situation in in the country an increasing number of Iranians have turned to smuggling, illegal currency trading, and other economic crimes. Larijani’s statements indicate that those engaging in these activities will also be prosecuted. He has also threatened striking merchants with the death penalty for disrupting the economy.