Economy & Finance, Government Policies & Politics

Iranian Billionaire Sentenced To Death Over Corruption


Iranian 42-year-old businessman and billionaire, , has been sentenced to death for , justice officials say.

He was arrested in December 2013 after accusations that he withheld billions in oil revenue channelled through his companies. He denies the allegations.

Zanjani was convicted of fraud and economic crimes, a judiciary spokesperson said at a press briefing.

One of Iran’s richest men, Zanjani was blacklisted by the US and EU for helping Iran evade oil sanctions.

Two others were sentenced to death along with him and all were ordered to repay embezzled funds. The ruling can be appealed.

Zohreh Rezalee, a lawyer for Zanjani, said the verdict was politically motivated and an appeal would be lodged.

“We believe that in this case is just a debtor,” the lawyer said.

Zanjani had acknowledged using a web of companies in the , Turkey, and Malaysia to sell millions of barrels of Iranian oil on behalf of the  since 2010.

Before his arrest, Zanjani had argued that international sanctions were preventing him from handing over $1.2bn still owed to the .

But at his recent trial, prosecutors said he still owed the government more than $2.7bn in oil revenue.

He was taken into custody a day after President Hassan Rouhani ordered his government to fight “financial ”, particularly “privileged figures” who had “taken advantage of economic sanctions” under the previous government.

The trial, unusually, was held in public, AFP news agency reports.

In a 2013 interview with the BBC, Zanjani played down his political connections in Iran, saying: “I don’t do anything political, I just do business.”

Zanjani has said he is worth about some $13.5bn.

For years things worked well for the businessman who appeared in photos with some high-ranking officials and was not shy of showing off his wealth, such as private jets and luxury cars, Amir Azimi of BBC Persian reports.

But when the local media started to report on his wealth, he came under the spotlight and under suspicion.

The death sentence could have wider implications for Iran’s economy, where many were involved in finding ways to avoid the sanctions, our analyst adds.

International sanctions on Iran were lifted in January after a watchdog confirmed it had complied with a deal designed to prevent it developing nuclear weapons.

Oil minister Bijan Zanganeh has urged foreign investors to avoid middlemen, whom he describes as “corrupt parasites”.

Zanjani was convicted of “corruption on earth”, the most serious offence in Iran’s criminal code.

Other wealthy individuals have been executed after being found guilty of similar charges.

In May 2014, businessman Mahafarid Amir-Khosravi was hanged after being convicted of embezzling billions of dollars.





Source: championnews

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