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Prime Suspect In Large Corruption Case Linked To Khamenei-Led Enterprise

The first court session on charges of corruption in Iran's petrochemicals exports which was held on Wednesday, March 06, 2019.
The first court session on charges of corruption in Iran's petrochemicals exports which was held on Wednesday, March 06, 2019.

Reports from Tehran say the prime suspect in the financial corruption case involving Iran's petrochemical industry is linked to a body under the aegis of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Meanwhile, social media posts by Iran-based journalists say that the accused, Reza Hamzehlou, is not in custody and has been seen in Qom on Sunday and travelled to Mashad on Monday to seek the support of an influential ayatollah. Radio Farda cannot independently verify these reports.

The case appears to be mainly about making personal profit by the accused during the process of circumventing U.S. sanctions against Iran. On Tuesday, Tehran’s prosecutor insisted that there was no embezzlement involved, but “there was corruption”. He also said that a "heavy" part of the case is still under investigation.

However, allegations emerged that Hamzehlou was an official at a religious foundation under the aegis of Khamenei. The Assembly for Proximity of Islamic Religions, whose main objective is said to be fostering better relations between Shiite and Sunni sects and its chairman is appointed by Khamenei, has denied reports that have named Hamzehlou as its deputy chairman for economic affairs. However, the body did not deny reports that he was the chairman of an affiliate organization.

According to the Young Journalists Club, the assembly admitted that Hamzehlou has once chaired the economic committee of the International Conference on Unity, which was sponsored by the assembly, adding that individuals like Hamzehlou were nominated by other institutions and "prominent personalities of the political system," an expression that can even allude to Khamenei.

Other reports have named Hamzehlou as the managing director of Islamic Charity Organization (Sakha) which is affiliated to the assembly.

However, the assembly said that charges made against Hamzehlou, date back to the years before 2012, when he was linked to the Ahmadinejad administration.

Until September 2011, Hamzehlou was the managing director of the Petrochemical Commercial Company (PCC) which is the focal point of the ongoing corruption case trial.

The conference Mr. Hamzehlou chaired is associated with various individuals including Sheikh Naeem Qassem, a deputy to the Lebanese Hezballah.

Hamzehlou, the former managing director of the Iranian Petrochemical Commercial Company (PCC), was named by the prosecutor as having made personal gains from government funds in partnership with another suspect, Marjan Sheikholeslami, who owned two trading companies in Turkey and was Hamzehlou's main partner in selling oil related products.

Sheikholeslami and two other suspects living abroad are represented at the court by their lawyers.

Although most reports from Tehran name Hamzehlou as the prime suspect in the case, Iran watchers such as Reza Haghighatnejad writing for Radio Farda and many others on social media have named Alinaqi Khamoushi, a prominent figure in the influential conservative Islamic Coalition Party as the man behind PCC.

According to Haghighatnejad, Khamoushi's Iranian Investment Company owned 52 percent of PCC's shares. Baztab, a controversial news website at the time said that Khamoushi had bought the shares at one tenth of their real market value.

Haghighatnejad has also named a Mohsen Ahmadian as another behind-the-scene individual who was involved in the case and was nicknamed by the IRGC-linked Fars news agency as the Sultan of Petrochemicals.

Ahmadian has been named as suspect number 2 in the case by the prosecutor, but the judges have not linked Khamoushi to the case which involves billions of Euros.

Iranians on social media have also linked a billionaire former minister under Presidents Rafsanjani, Khatami and Rouhani to the case.

The prosecutor has asked the suspects not to name a few others who are linked to "certain organizations." On social media, Iran watchers have named a former deputy intelligence minister as one of those involved in the case.