Security forces in Iran have arrested two members of the Iranian Parliament (Majles) on charges of "disrupting the car market," a member of parliament’s ethics committee told Fars news agency on Thursday, August 22.
The lawmaker told Fars that the Fereydoun Ahmadi and Mohammad Azizi who were arrested on Wednesday were linked to a financial corruption case at SAIPA (Société Anonyme Iranienne de Production des Automobiles) one of the two major automobile manufacturing companies that have been assembling France's Citroen and Renault cars for several decades in Iran.
Parliament or judicial officials have not provided any further details about the reason behind the arrests except saying it is linked with car industry corruption.
While earlier reports said that the two MPs were released shortly after their arrest, reformist lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeqi told the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) that the two are still in jail.
Meanwhile, parliament’s ethics committee says the Judiciary arrested the lawmakers without prior notification of parliament.
The arrests are the latest in a series of developments concerning the Judiciary's clamp-down on financial corruption in Iran's vehicle manufacturing Industry. According to earlier reports, the manager of Iran Khodro that assembles Peugeot in Iran has been jailed and the manager of SAIPA has been barred from traveling abroad.
Iran Khodro is one of the biggest vehicle manufacturers in Iran partnering with the French conglomerate PSA Peugeot Citroen.
A Majles Presidium member told the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) that the two lawmakers remained in jail as they refused to provide their 100 billion rials (roughly $2,372,000 million at the government rate) bail money.
Iranian media and social media users are suspicious about the clampdown on corruption in the auto industry, as company managers and lawmakers are well-connected regime insiders.
They suspect that clamp-down is stage-managed to calm angry Iranians who lost their assets in waves of widespread financial corruption in Iran, particularly since 2017.
Many Iranians have been telling foreign-based Iranian media that head of Iran Khodro has been arrested for over-pricing the company's vehicles, so the government should return money buyers overpaid.
One of the two lawmakers arrested on Wednesday was previously detained on the same charges but was freed later, adding to the suspicion about the Judiciary's intention to end corruption.
Ahmad Tavakoli, a member of Iran's Expediency Discernment Council told reporters that previously Mohammad Azizi was detained in mid-July on charges of financial corruption, only for a few hours.
The two lawmakers are in jail now for their links to the corruption case in SAIPA, whose managing director Javad Soleimani has been barred from traveling abroad for 6 months.
A spokesman for the Iranian Judiciary told the media that there are 25 suspects in the SAIPA case, but only 6 of them have been detained.
Meanwhile, Hashem Yekkeh Zare, the managing director of Iran Khodro was arrested earlier this week. Ali Rabiei, the spokesman for the Rouhani administration announced minutes before his arrest that Zare has been removed from his post for over-pricing Iran Khodro cars without coordination with the government.
Earlier reports from Tehran said Iran Khordo has experienced a 36 percent drop in output since March as a result of U.S. sanctions that have made it impossible to procure raw materials and spare parts, as noted recently by Iran's Industry Ministry.
As recently as August 17, the spokesman of parliament's inspection committee, Bahram Parsaee (Parsaei) attested that "Widespread financial corruption has turned automakers in Iran into a powerful Mafia."
As an example of corruption, Parsaee said Iran Khodro spent $250 million for designing a new trunk for the French Peugeot 206 model and renamed it as Peugeot SD while with the same amount of money they could have run a new production line.
Parsaee added that the two giant automakers in Iran, SAIPA and Iran Khodro, owe $9 billion to the banks and $7.5 billion to parts manufacturers.
Iran’s carmakers are mostly directly or indirectly government-owned and their losses impact either government institutions or government-owned banks.