Massive corruption at a steel mill rocks Iran’s political system 202208220582


Details of a major corruption case at Iran’s Mobarakeh steel plant have implicated dozens of media outlets, influencers and state entities.

Documents posted on social media revealed that some 125 Iranian media had received large sums of money from the MSP, possibly to turn a blind eye to the financial corruption of the company and its widespread financial conglomerate, including several wealthy affiliates.

Earlier this week, the steel mill, majority-owned by state institutions, was suspended by the Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE) following a scathing report by Parliament into an alleged $3 billion corruption case.

On August 22, investigative journalist Saba Azarpeik posted a ten-page list of natural and legal persons on the MSP payroll. The list includes several people linked to grand ayatollahs, as well as media including state television and the radical daily Kayhan, which operates under the direct supervision of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. There were also journalists and newspaper editors, including well-known reformist figures, state organizations including Iran’s infamous Ministry of Intelligence, and Friday prayer imams in many Iranian cities.

Social media users noted that President Ebrahim Raisi ordered the dismissal of some people involved in wrongdoing at the steel plant. As one user observed, “They are sent back to leave the country and have a good time abroad with the windfall money. We expected a punishment, but apparently no one knows what he will become of the people’s money.”

Mehdi Mahdavi-Azad, political contributor to Iran International TV discussing the massive corruption scandal

Iranian political analyst Mehdi Mahdavi-Azad said in an interview with Iran International TV that big cases of corruption in Iran occur in the absence of oversight bodies, free media and an independent judiciary. He said there was no contract for some of the money given to the media. Mahdavi added that some Twitter influencers were paid to deny any reports of financial corruption.

Raisi said when commenting on the unusually large corruption scandal that “Despite the cases of financial corruption, the regime is clear.” Political activist Asieh Amini told Iran International that “officials told the media to paint the case as organized corruption rather than systemic corruption to avoid generalizing wrongdoing to the entire Iranian political system.” Like Mahdavi-Azad, Ms. Amini attributed corruption to the lack of transparency in legislative and executive bodies and the absence of a free press and independent judiciary.

Amini said corruption appears quite natural in an undemocratic political structure. Raisi somehow denies corruption because he knows that systematic corruption is so prevalent in Iran’s political system that all parts of the government, legislature and judiciary contribute to it. She added that many major corruption cases in Iran since the 1990s ended in such a way that everything was swept under the rug.

Economist Ahmad Alavi explained how a major economic conglomerate with a presence in the stock market can be overwhelmed by financial corruption. He said: “The problem is that real privatization is impossible in Iran and the so-called privatized companies are controlled by elements linked to the regime and its key people. IRGC officers and clerics such as Friday prayer imams.”

Alavi added that “there are different forms of corruption in Iran, including political, economic, judicial, security and media corruption. Even the education and sports systems as well as religious and political institutions are corrupt in Iran. In such a system , no company in Iran can escape corruption.”

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