A senior official with Iran’s Parliamentary Investigations committee, Abbas Palizar, has accused top regime mullahs of widespread corruption in a videotaped presentation to students at Hamedan University.
Palizar accused leading clerics of using a variety of schemes to skim hundreds of millions of dollars from the central government treasury, and when questioned by the students, he named names.
He called the regime’s judiciary branch “the center of economic corruption.” Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi was appointed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 1999, and remains a close ally of the leader, making an attack on him extremely sensitive.
Palizar said the judiciary and the State Inspectorate Organization had refused to cooperate with the Majles (parliament) investigations into corruption, and had put its members on “forced leave” to prevent them from giving testimony.
It took over a year for Palizar and his investigators to access the files on the numerous corruption investigations that were closed without prosecution.
But what he found was stunning, he said.
“One of these clerics came and said that he had a disabled son and wanted to build a physical therapy center where he could be treated. So we registered the center for him.
"Then he asked for financial support, and demanded that we give him the license to operate the Dehbid stone quarry in Fars province, a company that has the some of the best marble in the world. After that, he said this was not enough, and he asked for a license to operate another quarry in Zanjan province. Now he operates four quarries and a physical therapy center.”
Palizar was reluctant to name the cleric, but when students pressed him, he identified him as Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani, a prominent member of the Council of Guardians and one of four temporary Friday prayer leaders in Tehran.
Another ayatollah went to Khamenei, Palizar said, and said he wanted to build a law university for women in Qom. After receiving a license, he then asked to be given the Dena Tire company, a state-owned firm with a market value estimated at $600 million.
The ayatollah was directed to the minister of Industries, Mohammad-Reza Nematzadeh, who offered to sell him the company for the discounted price of $126 million.
“Soon these gentlemen were asking for [greater] discounts, and eventually settled for 10 billion Toman [around $10 million],” Palizar said. “But then they said that they did not have the money and so would pay 80 percent of the price in installments.”
Even this scheme turned out to be beyond the ayatollah’s means, so he asked to be given title to the company, sell off some of the buildings, then pay the 20 percent with the proceeds.
“So as easy as that, the ayatollah took ownership of the factory and then sold it off on the stock market” at a handsome profit, Palizar said.
Again, the students demanded that Palizar name the cleric, and he blurted out: “ayatollah Yazdi."
Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the former head of the Judiciary, is also a member of the Council of Guardians and the Assembly of Experts, the group that is responsible for naming the supreme leader. Most recently, he was named head of the faculty of the Qom Theological Seminary, the most important center for hard-line clerics in Iran.
The Dena Tire company wasn’t Ayatollah Yazdi’s only payoff, Palizar revealed. He also wrote to the minister of Industries asking that his unemployed son, Hamid, be given control over the lucrative timber exports from the Caspian forests.
“At the time, Hamid Yazdi was a director of the Judiciary; in other words, he wasn’t even out of work,” Palizar told the students. “Thus he plundered the Caspian forests. And then they went and arrested the local people who had perhaps stored only enough wood for their fireplace,” he added. The arrests led to “protests outside the prisons.”
Most of Palizar’s revelations would appear aimed at the supreme leader himself, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This can be dangerous business in Iran.
In recent months, Khamenei has been seeking to put distance between himself and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose firebrand verbal assaults on Israel and the United States have alarmed many European leaders.
Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005 on a campaign of cracking down on corruption, but has done little to expose or stop the clerical elites from pillaging the resources of the state.
Palizar, considered an ally of the Iranian president, appears to be stepping up to the plate as a surrogate, just as Ahmadinejad’s relations with the supreme leader are on the wane.
Many observers believe that Khamenei will dump Ahmadinejad next spring, when his first four-year term as president is up. Some see the election as a sign of change. Parliament speaker Ali Larijani — a strong Ahmadinejad critic — thinks the president’s political troubles have caused him harm.
“Ahmadinejad has never been particularly respectful towards the clerics; he thinks that his fellow revolutionaries have a better grasp of true Islam than do the clerics,” said Patrick Clawson, deputy research director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“Since he can speak directly to the hidden imam, what does he need clerics for? And Ahmadinejad is so arrogant that he takes on the world all at once. So he has declared war on the senior clerics — not a clever move,” Clawson told Newsmax.
In another example cited by Palizar, state-owned Iran Khodro, which manufactures Peugeot cars under license from France, was forced to give new cars to government judges at half price paid in installments, “but most didn’t even bother to pay their instalments,” Palizar said.
Not to be outdone, when they heard of this deal, an organization called the Nahjolbalacheh Foundation asked that its members receive 500 vehicles under a similar arrangement.
“Now who do you think this Nahjolbalacheh Foundation belongs to?” Palizar asked. “It belongs to Nategh Nouri [the former Majles speaker who now heads of the supreme leader’s office], Rafiq-doust [fthe former minister of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, who now heads the Bonyad-e Mostazafan, a huge state-owned industrial conglomerate], Habibollah Asgaroladi [a member of the Bazaar Merchant Coalition society, believed to be one of the wealthiest individuals in Iran], Moezi [the deputy director of the supreme leader’s office],” and others.
Also asking for free cars was the Hamgaraei Andisheh organization, belonging to former Intelligence Minister Ali Falahian and Ayatollah Alm Alhoda, a radical cleric from Mashad,” he added.
Ayatollah Vaez-Tabasi, the supreme leader’s representative to Khorasan province in eastern Iran, had demanded that he be given ownership of the Tabas Stone Mining company “and 12 other large mines in Khorasan province,” Palizar said.
Tabassi’s son was reportedly involved in a corruption scandal known as the “Al Mokaseb” case, according to Iranain blogger Potkin Azarmehr. The case was investigated for two years, but all charges were dropped against Tabassi’s son and the other accused,
In another attack on a close member of Khamenei’s entourage, Palizar mentioned that a “big time smuggler” at Payam airport who has been named in 1500 cases of smuggled goods was released with no charges against him. “We are still unable to arrest him, because he is under the protection of ayatollah Nateq-Nuri,” Palizar said.
Nateq-Nuri heads the “inspection” office of the Supreme Leader, which handles counter-intelligence and other sensitive investigations.
In a revelation that could have major repercussions beyond the squabble between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, Palizar also accused unnamed senior regime officials of having murdered a former minister of transportation, Rahman Dadman, in a rigged aircraft accident.
Dadman was minister in the government of reformist president Mohammad Khatami, not an ally of Khamenei or of Ahmadinejad. His plane crashed in 2002 in a “pre-planned incident,” Palizar said. “The 1,000-page dossier regarding this air crash demonstrates this,” he added, but refused to provide details when pressed.
Similarly, a 2006 helicopter crash that killed Revolutionary Guards Ground Forces commander, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Kazemi, was also a homicide, he said.
Kazemi “had closed down the Hormoz mines for irregularities,” Palizar revealed, “and it was after the closure of the mines that his plane crashed.” The Hormoz mines were owned by Ayatollah Khazaeli, he added, without further identifying the cleric.
So far, Iranian bloggers have been spreading long quotations from Palizar’s presentation all over the Internet, where Persian-speakers can also view his entire 50-minute long appearance before the students at Hamedan University, which is available here: http://www.archive.org/details/efshaghari.
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