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
Among the 20 or so suspects named in the case, the first one who has been linked to Mansouri is Hassan Najafi, the man who gave the 500,000 euros bribe. Najafi's whereabouts is also not known.
Najafi is a well-known billionaire in Iran who is active in the petrochemical industry and construction business. Some of the controversy surrounding the case is about a major construction project he was running in the posh Lavasan region near Tehran. The project was estimated to be worth billions of dollars five years ago, encompassing at least one million square meters (247 acres) of land with residential zoning. Just the land was estimated to be worth $1.7 billion in 2016 by local officials; before the imposition of U.S. sanctions in 2018 which devalued Iran’s currency.
According to the Internet broadcaster Net TV, Najafi is a relative of Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri, a former Chief Inspector at the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Net TV has revealed that at one point the huge project was suspended by Vahid Haqanian, deputy for special affairs at Khamenei's office. However, work was resumed on the project upon intervention by - then - judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani.
The names reveal that some senior regime managers are involved with and are linked to the corruption case.
With the death of Mansouri, who was the Judge in Lavasan district and was in charge of making legal rulings in the real estate case according to the prosecutor, this part of the current corruption case will remain largely inconclusive in the eternal absence of the witness.
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.