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Major Corruption Case In Iran Plays Out In Europe As 8 Suspects Hide Abroad

Akbar Tabari, the main suspect in a big corruption case at court. June7, 2020

A major financial corruption case involving several judges and high-ranking officials at the Iranian Judiciary which is being investigated at a court in Tehran is playing out in the streets of Berlin as Iranians await the arrival of one of the fugitive suspects at the Iranian Embassy in Germany.

In the meantime, an Oxford-based lawyer, Kaveh Mousavi, has appealed to Iranians for incriminating evidence that would help him have Judge Gholamreza Mansouri who has fled Iran with 500,000 euros indicted abroad.

Mousavi wrote in a tweet: "His background leaves no doubt that there are charges to be brought against Mansouri including hostage taking and torture that can be investigated under international law." Mousavi called on Iranians to refer Mansouri's victims to him for a case that would lead to his arrest.

Other Twitter users have pointed at a BBC story that said Mansouri took hostage the family members of the Iranian proprietor of Gem TV in Turkey, Saeed Karimian in the 2010s in a bid to force him to shut down the entertainment channel.

However, he did not release the hostages after Karimian closed the channel. So, the proprietor took the Gem TV back on air after ten days.

In another development, the Spokesman for the Iranian Judiciary, Gholamhossein Esmaili, claimed at a news conference in Tehran on Tuesday June 9 that the corruption case involving a deputy chief of the Judiciary, Akbar Tabari, is an exception.

This comes while there are over 20 suspects indicted in the case including runaway cleric Gholamreza Mansouri and Mostafa Niaz Azari. Both Mansouri and Azari fled Iran after Tabari's arrest immediately after Ebrahim Raeesi (Raisi) was appointed chief of Iran's Judiciary last year and replaced Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani.

Mansouri's picture is all over Iranian social media, but Azari's pictures surfaced on social media for the first time on Tuesday. Mansouri was a notorious judge who, among other things, fabricated cases against Iranian journalists. He had jailed over 20 Iranian journalists in one go in 2013.

On the other hand, Azari is one of those charged with economic corruption and disrupting the country's economy. Tabari, as a senior Judiciary official took bribes and intervened and pushed Azari's case under the rug in 2011.

Azari gave him 15,000 square meters (161,000 sq. feet) of land and three villas with a value of 42 billion rials in cash, it was revealed in the court on June 7.

Esmaili claimed that the arrest of Tabari and the cases against him and other suspects prove that there is a will at the Judiciary to fight corruption, adding that the law breakers at the Judiciary amount to less than one percent of the personnel.

Tabari, the prime suspect in this case, is said to be the ringleader of a gang of corrupt individuals. The prosecutor said at the court that "Tabari was an influential figure at the Judiciary for over 20 years and has been involved in many criminal activities."

His case includes running a bribery network for influencing the judicial process in the interest of criminals after receiving hefty sums as bribe. He was arrested in June 2019, in case that has been said to be also linked to Larijani who was a possible candidate for succession as Iran's next Supreme Leader.

It was said at the first session of the court that at least 8 of around 20 suspects in this case have already left the country after Tabari's arrest.

Iranian activists in Europe who are following Mansouri's tracks are planning to have him tried at an international tribunal. It is not clear how A European country would give such a well-known figure a visa, but possible extradition would have its own pitfalls. Iran has not requested an extradition but if Europe agreed to send him back it might give Iran a precedence that would allow Tehran to call for extradition of activists by forging criminal cases against them.