Iran arrests nine more in country’s biggest financial scam

 

Iranian authorities arrested nine more suspects in a $2.6 billion bank fraud case, the biggest financial scam in the history of the country, reportedly linked to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

State television broadcast late Monday an interview with state prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehei in which he said that a total of 67 people have been questioned in the $2.6 billion case, details of which first broke in September.

Ejehei said some government officials were among those summoned, and that the judiciary had come under pressure as a result. He did not elaborate.

The accusations focus on the defendants’ alleged use of forged documents to obtain credit at one of Iran’s top financial institutions. Conservative opponents of Ahmadinejad have used the case to attack his allies.

Hard-line politicians said the scam was linked to “deviant current” with ties to Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff and in-law.

Rahim Mashaie was accused of trying to undermine the religious character of the country by seeking to give prominence to the Iranian nationalism and culture.

“Now Ahmadinejad’s hands are filled with the scam … Weakened in the eye of the nation, Ahmadinejad has been rendered impotent to initiate any political action ahead of the (March 2012) parliament vote,” a former senior official, who asked not to be named, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The fraud was made public with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s approval, said some hardline politicians.

“Ahmadinejad’s allies are determined to win the next elections and Khamenei’s allies want to block their way … That is the main reason behind the revelation of this scam,,” said an economist, who identified himself as Saber Lavasani.

“People will not vote for those linked to the scam.”

Some analysts speculated that Ahmadinejad was grooming Mashaei to succeed him in the 2013 presidential elections.

“The state of the economy is the underlying cause of the nation’s discontent and is considered a crucial factor for political factions’ electoral win,” said an analyst, who asked not to be named. “Who will vote for those involved in a $2.6 billion scam that is equal to one percent of Iran’s gross domestic product?”

Khamenei’s unprecedented public intervention in April to reinstate the intelligence minister sacked by the president displayed “his disapproval of Ahmadinejad’s policies.”

 

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