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Who Benefits From The Death Of Fugitive Iran Judge

Gholamreza Mansouri, a prosecutor known for ordering the mass arrest of journalists in 2013, took 500,000 in bribes and fled the country. FILE PHOTO
Gholamreza Mansouri, a prosecutor known for ordering the mass arrest of journalists in 2013, took 500,000 in bribes and fled the country. FILE PHOTO

Judge Gholamreza Mansuri is now the prime figure in one of Iran's biggest ongoing financial corruption cases after he mysteriously fell from the 6th floor of a hotel in Bucharest and died on Friday June 19.

He was defendant number nine in a corruption and bribery case in which the prime suspect is former deputy chief justice Akbar Tabari, with over twenty other suspects, eight of whom have fled Iran after Tabari's arrest. The case reached the upper echelons of the Islamic republic top officials.

Mansouri was accused of taking a 500,000-euro bribe. In the meantime, lawyers working on behalf of press freedom watchdogs in Europe were trying to bring him to justice for illegally arresting, torturing and jailing dozens of Iranian journalists.

But all that aside and regardless of the economic and security aspects of the case, the first question after Mansouri's death as the result of a likely murder or an unlikely suicide, is that who benefits most from his death?

When the prosecutor in Iran said during the first session of Tabari's trial that Mansouri has left Iran after Tabari’s arrest last year, it was clear that his exit from the country had been a coordinated escape.

It appears that those who had spirited him out of Iran or those who benefitted from his exit, later encouraged Mansouri to give away some misleading information about his whereabouts and his willingness to return. They were trying to buy time so that they could direct events and the trial in the right direction in their own interest. But Mansouri's death makes it clear that they probably realized the best way to buy time was to eliminate the insider who knew too much.

A Fugitive Linked to Mansouri

The first person whose name appears in the indictment text after the name of Mr. Mansouri is Hassan Najafi. Hassan Najafi - second defendant in the case who lives abroad - is accused of bribing Mansouri with 500,000 euros.

According to Iranian media reports, Hassan Najafi was a member of the board of directors of a number of industrial and petrochemical companies. His name was mentioned in relations to a controversial villa construction project in Lavasan called Kalaak. In March 2021, Iranian Judiciary’s Mizan News Agency reported that following the final decision of the Supreme court, "six properties registered under his name" were demolished.

According to the internet television channel "Avant TV", which investigates and covers corruption cases, Hassan Najafi is a relative of Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, the former head of the inspection department of the office of the leader of the Islamic Republic. According to this report, the Lavasan project, with an estimated value of 6 thousand billion tomans, was suspended for a while based on the order of Vahid Haghanian, the deputy for special affairs of the Office of the Leader of the Islamic Republic, but resumed with the intervention and order of Sadegh Larijani, the then head of the judiciary.

Radio Farda is not able to independently confirm the authenticity of this report.

At the time of preparing this report, Hassan Najafi could not be reached by Radio Farda. His French lawyer recently told Radio Farda that Mr. Najafi did not flee from Iran. Frédéric de Baets said that his client's stay outside of Iran is legal and he was never summoned to the court for this case.

Frédéric de Baets said that his client -a resident of Monaco- denies all the charges brought against him. He added that he had no criminal history in Iran, France or Monaco and was not wanted.

Mr. de Baets also provided a document to Radio Farda which showed that Mr. Najafi was issued a certificate of criminal record at the end of March 2022, and in this document, which is signed by the head of the Criminal Records Department of the Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor's Office of Tehran, it's stated that Mr. Najafi "has no criminal conviction".

Radio Farda cannot independently confirm the authenticity of this document.

Tabari, the Prime Suspect

During the third session of the trial, one of the suspects said that he saw Judge Mansouri for the first time at Tabari's office.

According to Iranian Judiciary officials, at Tabari's order, Mansouri followed the case of Lavasan real estate in a way that would benefit Hassan Najafi, suspect number 2 in this case.

The ties between Mansouri and Tabari show that he was not only a link in the real estate corruption case. He was a judge in a significant position to further various cases as Tabari wanted them to be handled. Mansouri's death, effectively buries many of these cases.

Sadeq Larijani, A Side Show

So far, in the trial the role of former head of Judiciary, Sadeq Larijani has not been mentioned. However, during recent days, as Mansouri's name surfaced in the media, there have been many reports about the link between Larijani and Mansouri. The most important case in this connection is the one that is about Larijani's brother, Fazel, when he attempted to take a bribe in 2010.

According to Iranian media reports, when the case was revealed, Sadeq Larijani appointed Mansouri as the judge in charge of the case. Mansouri cleared Fazel Larijani in the case. His appointment as the man in charge of his brother’s case shows the extent of Larijani's trust in him.

Meanwhile, in a 17 June report, Ensaf News website wrote that although Judge Mansouri was suspended in 2005 for two years on charges of financial corruption and land grabbing, when Sadeq Larijani became the chief justice, he appointed him as a Supreme Court Judge. Mansouri's death will also bury all the questions in this area.

Intelligence Apparatus, the Suspect Behind the Scene

After Mansouri's name and picture were published, dozens of Iran-based journalists revealed his involvement in the illegal arrests and persecution of dozens of Iranian journalists.

Meanwhile, family members of Saeed Karimian, the manager of Iranian Gem TV in Turkey who was assassinated in Istanbul in 2012 said Mansouri had for some time taken them hostage and kept them under harsh conditions in a security prison."

These cases show that Mansouri was not only a reliable insider in economic and financial cases, but he was also offering his loyal services to his superiors in security and intelligence cases inside and outside Iran.

Iranian human rights activists and Reporters Without Borders were demanding his arrest and trial in Europe for rights violations.

Now, with Mansouri's death, these cases cannot be investigated any further. His death has rid the Iranian intelligence and the regime of a widespread scandal.

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    Reza Haqiqatnezhad

    Reza Haqiqatnezhad was a well-known journalist in Iran until he left the country a few years ago and he is now a political analyst at Radio Farda.