Embezzlement in Iran, the largest cases of embezzlement in the past 40 years
By Daniel Mahdavi
40 years ago, the Iranian people overthrew the monarchic dictatorship ruling their country to permanently eradicate the repression of the people and widespread corruption in Iran and build a democracy-based country free from oppression and corruption.
But since the mullahs abducted the Iranian people’s revolution, they have destroyed the Iranian people’s hopes for democracy.
They first imprisoned Iranian society by suppressing parties and opposition movements and women and implementing reactionary laws in the Iranian society. Then, by dragging Iran into an eight-year war, they spent the people’s fortunes on the war. The regime itself has estimated the war to have cost more than $1 trillion in material damages.
After the war, the mullahs introduced new ways of embezzling money and wealth of the people in Iran. On the one hand, for the sake of their own self-interest, they stole from the pockets of the Iranian people, and on the other hand, they spent a large portion of Iran’s oil wealth on terrorism and to fund terrorist groups and organizations.
Within the mullahs’ rule, embezzlement has become so institutionalized that that Iranian authorities have coined the term “Sultan” to refer to major embezzlers. In recent years, Iran has had sultans of sugar, coins, currency and bitumen. Most of these sultans are either former regime officials or from families or relatives of ministers or senior authorities.
As long as this regime and its lawlessness stand, there will be embezzlement and robbery and astronomical wages, because robbery and embezzlement are embedded in the culture of this system, and its officials compete against each other to steal a bigger share of the people’s wealth.
And we still know very little about the embezzlements that happen in the transfer of billions of dollars to the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Assad regime in Syria, Iraq’s Hashed al-Sha’abi (Popular Mobilization Forces), the Houthis of Yemen, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Venezuelan regime.
This report is a brief look at some of the biggest corruption cases in the mullahs’ era. It covers the thefts and corruption that have been leaked to the media during the internal regime’s conflict, which is just a fraction of what has happened in Iran.
The figures mentioned in the report are all from official sources, from the regime’s own newspapers and public confessions, the judiciary and parliamentarians.
Embezzlement in Iran in the 1990s
The first major case of embezzlement in Iran dates back to 1995, in which Fazel Khodadad, a regime-linked merchant, and Morteza Rafiqdoust, brother of Mohsen Rafiqdoust, a former IRGC commander and former regime official, embezzled 123 billion tomans ($820 million) from the Bank-e Saderat (Bank of Export).
Then in 2001, during infighting between regime president Mohammad Khatami and supreme leader Ali Khamenei, the regime’s judiciary revealed part of the embezzlements of the Tehran municipality, which amounted to 1.4 billion tomans.
At the time, the U.S. dollar was being exchanged at 792 tomans, which means the embezzlement case was $1.76 million.
Embezzlement in Iran in the 2000s
In November 2003, Shahram Jazayeri, 28, became the youngest known face of embezzlement in Iran.
His case was one of the most controversial at the time because, strangely, not only had he given bribes to MPs and ministers, but also to many other high-profile officials, including Mehdi Karroubi and his political party, the National Trust Party; several companies inside and outside the country; and several Friday prayers leaders. He had even sent a 150-million toman check to office of the supreme leader.
The exact statistics of Shahram Jazayeri’s embezzlement were never announced. But if we take into account two debts to the banks that were $48.6 million and $97.2 million, and the 150 million tomans to Khamenei’s office, the total amount will be $146.2 million.
Embezzlement in Iran in the 2010s
The first case of embezzlement that was revealed in the Iranian banking system goes back to August 2011, which involved the embezzlement of 3 trillion tomans in the banking system by Mah Afarid Amir Khosravi and Mahmoud Reza Khavari, then director of Bank-e Meli (National Bank).
At the time, the U.S. dollar’s exchange rate was 1,100 Toman, which means $2.27 billion dollars was embezzled.
Saeed Mortazavi’s embezzlement
In 2012, in one case, former prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi transferred a total of 82 billion Japanese yen with several cheques, the equivalent of 3.250 trillion tomans at that time. In another case, he had signed an agreement with Babak Zanjani, a businessman with close ties to the regime, to sell Social Security Organization and 137 companies and subsidiaries to Zanjani for 503 million euros. With the dollar being exchanged at 3,440 tomans, the total amount of embezzled money was $994.762 million.
Embezzlement by former first Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi
In January 2014, a few months after the end of the tenth government, headed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his first deputy (Mohammad Reza Rahimi) was arrested for embezzlement. But the regime never announced the actual figures of embezzlements.
Embezzlement by Babak Zanjani
In January 2014, Zanjani was arrested. His arrest was linked to a major oil corruption case.
The embezzlement by Zanjani amounted to $2 billion, which according to the Ministry of Petroleum, amounts to $4 billion when including damages. At 4,500 tomans per dollar, it amounts to 18 trillion tomans.
Of course, Babak Zanjani’s case is not the only example of embezzlement and robbery in Iran’s oil industry. In 2015, news broke that oil rigs purchased by the National Iranian Oil company had disappeared!
At that time, an oil rig had been purchased by offshore installation companies at $87 million, but it never entered Iran despite depositing all the money into an intermediary company.
After a while, it was revealed that another rig had been lost, meaning that the contract for their purchase had been closed but not delivered. In total, the two rigs cost $124 million.
In 2017 a new case of embezzlement of 100 billion tomans was announced by the oil company and it is stated that a person who worked in the Ministry of Oil for 30 years had embezzled about 100 billion tomans in the ministry of oil and had left the country three hours after his corruption was revealed.
At 3,700 tomans per dollar it amounts to 27.27 million dollars.
Exposing embezzlement and corruption at the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs- 2013
The corruption case in Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs was initially estimated to be 15 billion tomans, but its main dimensions were later determined as follows:
Embezzlement of 170 billion tomans from the national wealth, giving an 8-trillion toman loan without any guarantee and with collusion, and a money laundering scam against a Dubai bank’s currency exchange company worth 433 million dirhams.
At 3,200 tomans per dollar, it amounts to $2.53 billion.
Corruption in teachers fund 2016
The declared amount of corruption in Teachers Fund and the Bank-e Sarmaye (Capital Bank) amounted to 3.5 billion tomans but surveys later revealed that more than $8 trillion tomans had been loaned (doubtful loan) by Capital Bank – whose majority stake belongs to the Teachers Fund and the 4 trillion tomans of the fund’s assets have also been eliminated between 2007 to 2013.
One of the main defendants in the case fled the country with about 500 billion tomans in debt and the embezzled property never returned.
At 3,748 tomans per dollar it amounts to $2.55 billion dollars.
Embezzlement in Iran’s banks
In November 2016, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, the spokesman for the judiciary, announced a 1.2-trillion toman embezzlement case in Bank-e Meli (National Bank) and Bank-e Melat (People’s Bank).
At 3748 tomans per dollar it amounts to $320.17 million.
Embezzlement by Astronomical wages in Ministries and Government Offices
In the third year of the first term of Hassan Rouhani’s presidency (2016), some media outlets published several wage bills of 20 to 50 million tomans.
Release and disclosure of these bills was initially limited to Iran’s Central Insurance, National Development Fund and Workers’ Welfare Bank. But the wave of revelations about astronomical wage bills became more widespread and expanded to reach some military institutions.
Investigations later showed that only 397 people were able to embezzle 23.3 billion tomans using astronomical salaries.
At 3,748 tomans per dollar it amounts to $6.3 billion.
Astronomical Properties and Corruption in Tehran Municipality in 2017
The point of the story was to hand over properties to certain individuals at prices well below their actual value.
45 persons were involved in the case, and it was found that 200 apartments, villas and land of the Tehran municipality valued at 22 trillion tomans, were handed over to 45 people at a very low price.
At 4,500 tomans per dollar it amounts to $444.44 million.
Embezzlement in Iran’s Petrochemical Industry in 2018
In March 2018, 97 embezzlement cases were discovered in the petrochemicals sector. 14 defendants involved in this $7-billion fraud case.
The most famous person in this case is Marjan Sheikh al-Islami Al-Agha, CEO of Deniz & Hetra Trading Co, who escaped to Turkey and then to Canada in July of 2017.
she embezzled millions of dollars through contracts she had with subsidiaries Khatam al-Anbia garrison, which are affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards. She lives in Canada now.
Embezzlement in Iran , Embezzlement in the automobile industry in 2019
In the first half of 2018, the issue of embezzlement of 4 trillion tomans in the automobile industry made the headlines. Abbas Irvani, a regime-linked investor, had embezzled about 4 trillion tomans in the automobile industry.
Abbas Irvani is the managing director of Ozam Holding, which comprises 12 part- manufacturing factories.
Creating a vast network of corrupt and bribery communications, he has sold Chinese parts to automakers in the name of domestic production, earning 400 billion tomans annually.
At 4,500 tomans per dollar it amounts to $888.888 million.
The total embezzled money so far is about $30.055 billion.