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Two Iranian Traders Convicted Of 'Disrupting Economy' Sentenced To Death

Iranian and U.S. banknotes on display at a currency exchange shop in downtown Tehran.
Iranian and U.S. banknotes on display at a currency exchange shop in downtown Tehran.

Iran's Supreme Court has upheld death sentences given to two financial traders convicted of illegal currency trading and "disrupting the economy," another alleged crime.

Iranian authorities on October 22 identified the two men as Vahid Mazloumin and Mohammad Esmail Ghasemi, whom local media dubbed the "Sultan of Coins" after he was arrested and found hoarding two tons of gold coins that he allegedly used to manipulate the Iranian currency.

Many Iranians have stocked up on gold coins and other safe haven investments as the rial has plummeted this year to record lows against the U.S. dollar.

While most Wall Street analysts attribute the currency's fall mostly to the pressure from U.S. sanctions, which Washington started reimposing in August, the government has responded to the economic crisis by blaming local currency traders for the rial's fall and setting up special courts to try them for alleged capital crimes.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi said the two currency traders sentenced to death were convicted of "spreading corruption on earth," a term used for crimes punishable by death in the Islamic Republic.

Ejehi said the swift conclusion of their cases before the Iranian Supreme Court serves as a "warning to opportunists" who aim to "disrupt the economy" during the time of the "enemy's pressure" on Iran -- in an apparent reference to the economic sanctions that the United States is reimposing since withdrawing from Iran's nuclear agreement in April.

The two men sentenced to death first went on trial on September 8 over charges of "disrupting the economy" through the creation of a network trading in illegal currency and gold coins, Iranian media reported.

A third person, Hamid Bagheri-Dermani, was also accused of corruption and sentenced to death in preliminary hearings. His case is still up for appeal before the Supreme Court.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP