By Pete Papaherakles
The outcome of the biggest banking fraud case in Iran’s history was made official on February 18. According to Associated Press, four bankers have been sentenced to death in Iran for their role in a $2.6 billion scandal, while two more bankers were given life sentences, and 33 more accomplices will spend up to 25 years in jail, the chief prosecutor was quoted as saying. This is the biggest banking fraud in Iran’s history, and the stiff decision reveals that the bankers in Iran don’t run the country.
Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the sentence passed at the trial last summer. Attorney General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei told reporters that the four bankers were guilty of corruption and “disrupting the country’s economic system.” The scandal involved the use of forged documents in order to receive credit from banks, which enabled them to purchase state-owned companies.
Iran’s PressTV said that, according to the indictment, the owners of Aria Investment Development Company, which has 35 offshoots active in diverse business activities, had bribed bank managers to get loans and letters of credit.
The four people sentenced to death include Aria President Mahafarid Amir-Khosravi, his legal adviser, Behdad Behzadi, his financial solicitor, Iraj Shoja and the head of the Ahvaz branch of Saderat Bank, Saeed Kiani Rezazadeh. The president of the Bank Melli branch in the city of Kish was sent to prison for life. Former Deputy Minister Khodamorad Ahmadi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Several others involved have also been slapped with heavy fines and many have also been prohibited from holding public office.
These sentences should send a strong message to bankers across the globe, who have been engaged in massive fraud and corruption. Political leaders spend a lot of time debating over how to deal with our crumbling economy. Ending systemic abuse would undoubtedly have a positive ripple effect. But no central bankers have been arrested in light of the recent financial debacle.
It is of interest to note that Iceland, a country that successfully resisted a targeted takeover by the bankers, has also found the political will to prosecute bankers and high-ranking government officials involved in that country’s banking scandal, including Iceland’s ex-prime minister.
In contrast, the United States has refused to sentence its own bankers, who are responsible for the current economic crisis, or even fine them, although overwhelming evidence exists of their guilt. Both Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase got a pass for having deliberately defrauded the American public of many billions of dollars. Instead they got rewarded with a $700 billion taxpayer bailout package in 2008 and also received trillions of dollars’ worth of interest-free handouts from the Federal Reserve.
The U.S. government is being hypocritical when it declares Iran’s central bank a criminal organization. In truth, Iran is executing and jailing corrupt bankers, while our government is rewarding them with trillions of dollars in bailouts, sweetheart deals and interest-free loans.
Peter Papaherakles, a U.S. citizen since 1986, was born in Greece. He is AFP’s outreach director. If you would like to see AFP speakers at your rally, contact Pete at 202-544-5977.