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More High-Level Corruption Revelations In Iran's Banking Sector

Yasser Ziyaee, former deputy at the Sarmayeh Bank during his trial in Tehran. Undated
Yasser Ziyaee, former deputy at the Sarmayeh Bank during his trial in Tehran. Undated

During the latest court session concerning financial corruption in Iran’s banking sector, one of the accused admitted paying millions of dollars in bribes to the chief of staff of one of the former speakers of the Islamic Republic parliament.

According to judicial authorities, the suspect, former deputy head of Sarmayeh (Capital) Bank, Yasser Ziyaee, has admitted paying the bribe to a man identified as Darvish Nouri.

The actual date of the 107 billion rial bribe is not clear, but apparently it happened in the last decade, when Iran's currency was much higher. This would mean the amount could be close to $10 million.

The Sarmayeh Bank is deeply mired in corruption investigations. The main issue is Iran Teachers’ Reserve Fund investments in the bank and the disappearance of nearly $3.5 billion of the fund’s money. Retired teachers depend on income form their investment and have been frequently protesting in the past few years for their unpaid and inadequate pensions.

One character involved in the scandal isHossein Hedayati, a member of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, who is an Iranian business tycoon. Most notably Hedayati has built popularity, or notoriety by investing in soccer clubs. He purchased Steel Azin F.C. and invested into one of the most admired soccer clubs in Iran, Persepolis F.C.

Several trials concerning the Sarmayeh Bank have been held in Iran, so far. Earlier this year, the bank's former chairman, Parviz Kazemi labor minister from 2005 to 2006 in hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's cabinet, was sentenced to 20 years, and 24 lashes.

Sarmayeh Bank managers Ali Bakhshayesh, and Mohammad Reza Tavassoli have also been convicted.

The court has also sentenced Hedayati to twenty years, demanding the cash he had pocketed.

The name of the former speaker of parliament, whose chief of staff, Darvish Nouri was introduced as the recipient of $2.5 million bribes, was not mentioned during the trial. Nevertheless, records show that Darvish Nouri enjoyed close contacts with 74-year-old mid-ranking cleric Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri who chaired the parliament for two consecutive terms (1992-2000).

The fund has 800,000 members, all employed by the education ministry or retirees, who receive annual interest based on their monthly deposits. The prosecutor claims 150 trillion rials (roughly $3.6bn) of the fund's assets went missing as a result of fraud committed by the defendants.

There are currently at least ten economic-corruption trials underway in special courts in Tehran, including cases involving financial institutions and petrochemical companies.

Since the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran and the deterioration in the country’s economy, authorities are making an effort to show they are serious about curtailing corruption. But every investigation and trial brings out more dirt in the governing system, exposing what people have known all along in the largely state controlled economy.