Saturday, June 14, 2008

Corruption and the Mullahs

The mad mullahs of Iran have been the greatest beneficiaries of the ever increasing oil prices, allowing them to keep their mess of an economy afloat. Iran's economy was in deep trouble in 2005. Even with high gas prices since, endemic corruption and a centralized economy where the rich wear turbans - or an IRGC uniform - have kept the economy on the edge of imploding. It is an economy made all the worse by Ahmedinejad, with inflation running above 25% and unemployment hitting new double digit highs each month.

The incredible corruption of the mullahs is no secret. What is unusual, however, is to hear it announced publicly and the turbaned ones named by a member of the Iranian General Audit Office - now jailed.

This from Amir Taheri writing in the NY Post:

'A BUNCH of turbaned thieves": So a member of the Iranian General Audit Office described leading Islamic Republic figures in a speech two weeks ago. On Wednesday, that official, Abbas Palizdar, was arrested by the secret police, ostensibly on orders from "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenei.

Speaking at a university in Hamadan, west of Tehran, on May 27, and later on June 3, Palizdar claimed that "a mafia-style group of mullahs" is "plundering the country and sending the proceeds to foreign banks." He also said that the same "mafia" had assassinated two prominent officials who had stood in its way.

That the mullahs are filling their pockets hasn't been a secret for more than two decades. Iranians know which businesses are controlled by the turbaned heads and their "front men." What's new is that a senior official actually named names.

Palizdar claimed that former President Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani controls more than 300 businesses, making him the richest man in Iran. A small building contractor before the mullahs seized power, Rafsanjani has built an empire on government contracts that's now estimated to be worth several billion dollars.

Palizdar denounced many others:

* Ayatollah Muhammad Imami-Kashani, Tehran's Friday-prayer leader, and Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Nateq-Nuri, a former speaker of the Islamic parliament - who he called "leeches sucking the blood of our nation."

* Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, a pro-regime mullah from Qom, known to Iranians as "Sugar Ayatollah." Since 1995, he has controlled sugar imports through his son-in-law, Muhammad Moddallal.

* Ayatollah Muhammad Yazdi, a former chief justice, who holds agency rights for several German and French firms and is a silent partner in more than 100 businesses, some with offices in Europe.

* Ayatollah Ali Fallahian, a former minister for security and intelligence, who is wanted by the Criminal Court in Berlin for his alleged involvement in the 1992 assassination of Iranian dissidents there. Palizdar said Fallahian won "juicy government contracts" in exchange for a promise "not to spill the beans."

* Ayatollah Abbas Va'ez-Tabassi, who heads the Imam Reza Foundation, Iran's largest business conglomerate.

* Ayatollah Alam al-Huda - who Palizdar called the head of "a ring of corruption and money laundering" that includes hundreds of lesser-known clerics.

* Chief Justice Muhammad Hashemi-Shahroudi, a mullah of Iraqi origin - who Palizdar said had turned the Islamic Supreme Court into "the nerve center of corruption."

Palizdar charged that the mullahs are involved in smuggling, money laundering, bribery and influence peddling. Their business interests include airlines, transportation, hotels, mines, petrochemicals and arms factories. Rafsanjani reportedly holds a monopoly on trade with China while Vaez-Tabassi controls trade with Central Asia.

Palizdar's potentially most serious charge concerns the 2002 deaths of Gen. Ahmad Kazemi, a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the minister of transport, Ahmad Dadman. The air crash that killed them, he said, may not have been accidental: "They had closed two airports used by mullahs to smuggle goods without paying customs duty."

When Palizdar first made his allegations two weeks ago, Tehran circles assumed he was acting for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who came to power promising to "clean the stables."

Ahmadinejad promised in an April speech to expose "a mafia-style organization" that he said dominates the nation's economy. And Palizdar had been a member of Tehran Mayor Ahmadinejad's faction in 2005.

. . . But as Palizdar was being sent to jail this week, Ahmadinejad's faction seemed anxious to disown him. "Palizdar has attacked and accused some clerics and simultaneously supported the government's anti-corruption campaign to put clerics and respectable figures at odds with the government," the pro-Ahmadinejad daily "Iran" editorialized.

The hardline daily Kayhan, controlled by the "supreme guide," went even further: "Palizdar was chosen by counterrevolutionaries as the right vehicle for propaganda," it said.

Clearly, the stage is being set for a new power struggle. Ahmadinejad is out to frighten his opponents by threatening to expose their corruption. The Revolutionary Guard is trying to force the mullahs to give it a bigger share of lucrative businesses. And Ahmadinejad's opponents want to clip his wings in case they have to make a deal with the Western powers. . . .

Read the entire article. This seems to be part of the struggle ongoing between Ahmedinejad and the various other factions vieing for power and a big slice of the corruption pie. Much more on this by Mehdi Khalaji writing at Policy Watch.

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