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Lawmaker Says Sanction-Busting Corruption Is Part Of Iran's Economic Structure

Iranian businessman Babak Zanjani appears during a court session in Tehran, November 17, 2015. Zanjani was accused of pocketing billions of dollars when he helped Iran launder money from illegal oil exports.

Outspoken reformist MP Mahmoud Sadegii says some Iranian conservatives believe those who help the Islamic Republic circumvent U.S. sanctions are entitled to 20 to 30 percent share of the value of transactions.

Mahmoud Sadeghi, an outspoken lawmaker elected from Tehran. File photo
Mahmoud Sadeghi, an outspoken lawmaker elected from Tehran. File photo

Sadeghi (Sadeqi) who is the chairman of the Transparency Committee of the Iranian Parliament (Majles) told the parliament's official news website, ICANA, on Saturday May 11 that giving away a percentage of the value of transactions in sanction-busting operations has become a normal practice in the Islamic Republic.

Referring to part of Iranian hardliners who have supported sanction-busters and legitimized the unusual bribery practices particular under former ultraconservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the lawmaker added that some conservative figures have submitted to the financial corruption.

Sadegii said: "These groups believe that it is impossible to run the country's affairs without resorting to financial corruption."

In fact, Iran has been ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International.

Cases such as Babak Zanjani who is in jail with a death sentence after helping the government repatriate billions of dollars of its oil revenues under sanctions for years, through money laundering in various countries, and the petrochemical company dossier which involves several regime insiders in the same kind of international money laundering practice are among the well-publicized cases that have been disclosed in courtrooms or in the press.

Both Babak Zanjani, and the suspects in the Petrochemical companies have insisted in courtrooms that whatever they have done was part of their efforts to help the Islamic Republic.

Oddly speaking in support of sanction-busters, Mohammad Javad Nobandegani, a member of the Majles National Security Committee has said that "rumors" about regime insiders benefitting from money laundering have made it harder for the "private sector" to come forward and help the government confront the sanctions.

Speaking to IRGC-linked news agency Tasnim, Nobandegani said in mid-April, "These rumors and lies have negative implications. The resulting atmosphere after revelations about these cases makes it harder for the private sector to help the government in circumventing the sanctions."

President Hassan Rouhani and his aides have repeatedly criticized those who have benefited from the sanctions in this way, without naming names. They described sanction-busters as individuals involved in the "sanctions’ business."

Sadeghi has also said that the Rouhani administration has tried hard not to fall in the trap of financial corruption while confronting the sanctions, "but this can hardly be done," he admitted, adding that sanction-related corruption has become part of Iran's economic structure.

He had also said in December that "Iran has fallen into the trap of corruption because of sanction-busting; and corruption leads to more corruption in the same way that poverty multiplies itself."

A well-known conservative, former MP Ahmad Tavakoli has also said that the Iranian government is suffering from "systematic corruption" as anti-corruption organizations have also become more or less corrupt.

Nevertheless, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former Judiciary Chief Sadeqi Amoli-Larijani have denied the existence of systematic corruption in Iran without offering any counter-argument in the face of so much hard evidence including the two major cases mentioned above.