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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mr. “R” took 1.5 billion dollars from Iran’s state funds - daily

Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, Oct. 19 – An individual identified only as “Mr. R.” has amassed an enormous personal wealth by taking out the equivalent of 1.5 billion dollars in loans from Iran’s state banks, a semi-official daily close to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wrote in its Tuesday edition.

The ultra-conservative daily Jomhouri Islami quoted an informed source as stating that Mr. R. took out at least 13,200,000,000,000 Rials in loans from the state’s financial institutions. None have been paid back.

Hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has promised to “root out the oil mafia” and expose corrupt officials. He regularly vows to cut off the hands of “powerful persons who are pocketing huge profits from the oil sales”.

Observers believe Iran’s former President Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose sons and close relatives have had sizeable personal involvement in the country’s oil trade, is the target of Ahmadinejad’s “anti-corruption” campaign.

Rafsanjani, whose family rules over a vast financial and business empire, is widely believed to be Iran’s richest man.

Whether or not the report’s Mr. R. is Rafsanjani is a mere detail. Ask any ordinary Iranian to name “an official” involved in sleaze, corruption, bribery and embezzlement, and the former president immediately springs to mind.

From the pistachio farms of his hometown Rafsanjan to huge oil trading companies, the ruling theocracy’s former president has used his power and influence to expand his wealth. Conservative estimates put his fortune at well beyond the 10 trillion Rial mark, the equivalent of $1.1 billion.

Most of the powerful cleric’s enormous wealth is vested in the hands of his sons and daughters, as well as other close relatives such as his brothers, nephews, and bother-in-laws, and son-in-laws. One of his villas was sold in 2004 for roughly 29 billion Rials. His brother, Mohammad Hashemi, the former chief of the state broadcasting corporation, owns the company Taha, which imports industrial-scale printers.

It remains to be seen whether future editions of Jomhouri Islami or Kayhan which carries the official position of Supreme Leader Khamenei would venture to reveal further details about Mr. R.

The report in Jomhouri Islami also disclosed that one of Mr. R.’s business allies, identified only as Mr. A, had taken out a loan of 3,500,000,000,000 Rials ($380 million).

Analysts see the rising venom in the tone of attacks in the factional bickering in Iran as a sign of growing internal strife at the top of the Iranian theocracy, as the Supreme Leader and his ultra-conservative allies have effectively shut the other factions out of power.

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