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Middle East

Top Ahmadinejad aide indicted in Iran graft case

In this Tuesday, March 4, 2014 photo, young Iranian ladies meet at a cafe in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

DUBAI: Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s top aide has been indicted, apparently in connection with allegations of corruption in the previous administration, Iranian media reported Monday.

Former Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi has been the target of a lengthy judicial investigation into his possible role in several high-profile bribery and embezzlement cases that also spill into Turkey, as well as Central and East Asia.

Rahimi has denied all the accusations and last year, while still in office, he said he would “volunteer to have my hands severed if even one of these charges is proved against me.”

Rahimi has reported links to jailed businessman Babak Zanjani, chairman of Sorinet Group, who is accused of skimming up to $2.7 billion off illegal oil exports, as Ahmadinejad’s government tried to bypass international sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

Analysts say Zanjani’s connections with senior officials in Ahmadinejad’s administration and in the Revolutionary Guard have made him a political target, especially since the advent of President Hassan Rouhani’s government in August.

“Economic corruption at this scale is unprecedented,” Eshagh Jahangiri, who serves in Rouhani’s administration in the job once held by Rahimi, told the official Iran Magazine Monday.

Jahangiri, appointed by executive order as the lead investigator into inside dealings, said billions of dollars had been deposited into Zanjani’s offshore bank to pay shadowy oil contractors. “Up until now, these funds and proceeds from oil sales have not been returned to government coffers,” he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 18, 2014, on page 9.

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