August 25, 2016
Iranian billionaire to appeal oil fraud death sentence
Lawyers for Iranian billionaire Babak Zanjani have announced that their client will appeal against his sentence of death which was delivered in an oil fraud case. Rasoul Kouhpayezadeh said in an interview with the Iranian Students News Agency that
“the sentence is not final and there is room to dispute it.”
Zanjani was accused of embezzling $2.7billion from the state-run National Iranian Oil Co while overseeing transactions aimed at getting round international sanctions on Iranian crude exports. He has always denied the charges that he used the Tajikistan branch of his own bank, First Islamic Investment Bank, to funnel the money out of Iran.
The embezzlement happened in 2012 under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the height of international sanctions. Zanjani had been operating as an informal oil dealer at the oil ministry, and was arrested in 2013 after the election of President Hassan Rouhani. He was brought to trial in 2015.
Rouhani’s government is keen to show both national and international watchers that it is actively tackling corruption as the nation begins to open up economically. The landmark accord with the Islamic Republic in July has led to the lifting of wide-ranging sanctions by the international community related to Iran’s nuclear program. With it has come increasing sensitivity over financial matters as investment opportunities open up.
According to the state-run Tasnim news agency, Zanjani was convicted along with two other people, Mehdi Shamszadeh – an Iranian with British citizenship – and Hamid Fellah Heravi, who have also been sentenced to death. In addition they have been ordered to repay a quarter of the money they laundered.