MESUT – Iran will go after its money in Turkey

Iran will go after its money in TurkeyIt was 12 years ago Iran was facing a corruption scandal. When the scandal was covered in the media, a young businessman, Shahram Jazayeri, fled to Dubai. Iran requested his extradition to initiate a legal process that was subsequently carried out secretly. The prosecutor’s office concluded that Jazayeri acted as head of a clandestine organization who bribed ministers, deputies and even clerics. The prosecutors also proved that he won a number of public tenders thanks to the Revolutionary Guards. The investigation further revealed that he bribed a number of high level officials and statesmen including figures from the reformist and conservative groups. But his bribe to Mojtaba Khamenei, son of religious cleric Ali Khamenei, was leaked to the media. Despite escaping, Jazayeri was prosecuted after his extradition. He told everything to the prosecutor, including how he robbed the state, whom he bribed and the clandestine structure that supported him. But the judiciary did not do anything against former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, his connections, the clerics and the Revolutionary Guards. He and a few of his men were imprisoned. His properties and assets were confiscated. Despite that, he has been in jail for 12 years, his gang and bribery mechanism still remains unidentified.The Jazayeri case serves a guide to better understand the Babak Zanjani scandal that was recently revealed. Nobody expects concrete results in the Zanjani case.The Iranian regime will eventually cover up the scandal. But of course, the domestic and international cards will be used in the process. Iran Expert Arif Keskin recalls that the regime will go after every dime Zanjani smuggled abroad and that the Iranian state will use every trump card it has against the third countries to do this.Zanjani was an influential man who has become very popular in a wide range of fields including soccer, cinema and literature. But it was a surprise to see that an ordinary businessman like him had become extremely rich. Keskin says that without the regime’s approval and support, a figure like Zanjani could not have become that rich. Zanjani’s assets are worth $14 billion most of this was accrued over the last three to four years. Zanjani made first contact with the Iranian state in 1997 during the presidency of Rafsanjani. During Zanjani’s military service, he was assigned as the private chauffeur of Central Bank President Mohsen Nourbakhsh. During this service, he performed some secret central bank tasks including illegally transferring foreign currencies from the central bank to the market. In return, he was paid $20,000 per day. After the completion of his military service, he used this money to do business. He exported sheepskin Turkey was his first destination. At the beginning, business was good but then he went bankrupt. He was jailed in the 1990s because he was unable to pay his debts. After serving a year in jail, he started doing business again. Jazayeri traveled to Turkey where he learned some Turkish. He made contact with the regime once again in 2005, after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president.Ahmadinejad and his team started to deal with the former elites in the country and reformist businessmen who became rich during the office terms of Rafsanjani and former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. He created instead his own group of loyal businessmen. In doing this, he manipulated public tenders so that his men would win. Zanjani is one of these businessmen.When the Western countries decided to impose sanctions against Iran during the Ahmadinejad era, the regime attempted to overcome the restrictions associated with these sanctions through businessmen like Zanjani who were controlled by the Guards. Zanjani admitted on his Facebook page that he voluntarily played this role, saying that without him, Iran would not be able to export oil. Iran was extracting and processing 180 billion barrels of oil back then however, 10 billion barrels went missing. Nobody knows how this amount of oil was exported or used. Zanjani allegedly had some of it. The new administration insists that the money should be returned to the state. This is the substance of the lawsuit filed against Zanjani.Hassan Rohani, who succeeded Ahmadinejad in office, maintained contacts with the West in order to address the economic problems in the countries. To this end, he agreed to confront the business circles that performed illegal activities in the previous administration the first target in this campaign was Zanjani, who became popular in a very short time. The new administration realized that Zanjani had to pay at least $3-4 billion to the state because he had forged the relevant documents to avoid payment of debts. As part of the legal process against Zanjani, Iranian authorities sent delegations to third countries including Turkey, Tajikistan and Malaysia, where Zanjani performed economic activities, to track down the monies he had not paid to the state. Rohani also sent a message to a foreign investor that he is making the economy more transparent by this move against Zanjani.Nobody knows exactly the size of Zanjani’s assets, where he holds them and who controls him and his assets. The Iranian state believes that if they hurry, they will not be able to take the money back for this reason, they have kept the interrogation process slow. They ask for information and documents from the third countries. It is reported that Iran asked for Turkey’s cooperation.For the Tehran administration, the Zanjani file is not all about corruption it is also relevant to national security and foreign policy as well. This is why the legal process is taking too long. In other words, the process involves many leading figures, including Mojtaba Khamenei. But in case the process starts hurting the image and interests of the regime and the Revolutionary Guards, things may change. Hence, the process is being carried out in a way to serve the goals of the regime. In other words, the investigation and prosecution will make sure that the monies will be returned to the country and that third countries will be impressed. For this reason, there is something extraordinary about the file. At the end of the day, it will be concluded in line with the interests and priorities of the regime.Judicial intelligence holds the strings in the Zanjani investigation. He has been held in custody at the Evin Prison in Tehran for four months. The intelligence institution is directly subordinate to Ali Khamenei. They never let the police and the Iranian intelligence service interrogate Zanjani. So, in the end, it is safe to argue that Khatami is in charge of this process. No single statement has been made so far. There are only assumptions on the conduct of the prosecution and the investigation.The regime currently treats the issue as a domestic matter. However, this does not mean that the regime will not use it as a trump card. When it considers it is the right move, Iran will use the Zanjani trump case against any state, including Turkey. Iran believes that part of Zanjani’s monies is in this country and it is determined to take it back. But even if they take this money back, the Iranian regime will also use this case for political gains in its international relations as well. They are aware that the illegal money leaves a mark and trace where it is laundered. Based on these traces, they may blackmail or negotiate the third countries so as not to undermine the regime’s image and reputation. Everybody is aware that Zanjani is not just an ordinary businessman in Iran.Those who were involved in even less significant charges of corruption than Zanjani is currently facing were executed in Iran. They do not tolerate corruption Zanjani still being alive suggests that he has some assurances indicating that a certain group or wing within the state is blocking the way to his execution. This can be taken as a message to Zanjani that he would be released in case he pays his debt. The regime therefore does not want to execute Zanjani because this would be detrimental to the economy and the overall mood in business circles. The regime will wipe out Zanjani in case he does damage to them.There is evidence suggesting that Iran is following the Dec. 17 operation in Turkey, as it is viewed it to be relevant to the Zanjani investigation. Iranian media reported that Tehran asked Ankara to interrogate Reza Zarrab, but that Ankara did not comply with this request. The media established a connection between Zanjani and Zarrab. But official authorities deny this linkage. It is not possible, however, to believe that Iran was unaware of Zanjani, who was blacklisted by the US for his transnational illegal activities. For this reason, the regime could not have relied on Zanjani alone in performing illegal activities to overcome the sanctions. Analysts believe that there are many other figures in the world like Zanjani who carry out clandestine businesses.During Rafsanjani’s term in office, the regime openly stated that the Iranian intelligence played an active role in foreign trade and transnational investments. When he came to power, Khatami tried to purge the economy of the covered structures of the intelligence agency and its phony corporations. But they returned to the field during Ahmadinejad’s term in office this time, they were even stronger and more influential. It is alleged that the Iranian regime has shell corporations in Turkey as well. Now, Rohani works hard to reduce the influence of Iranian intelligence on the economy. Recently, Aziz Jafari, the head of the Revolutionary Guards, stated that the Guards resent this attempt, and he further criticized the new president for not using the potential and economic power of the Revolutionary Guards and the intelligence agency.What Jafari said suggests that Turkey should pay attention to the Zanjani case to see how the regime uses the clandestine groups in the region. In the future, the Iranian economy may suffer from corruption again therefore, for Turkey, it is inevitable to deal with new Zanjanis. The entire case will be concluded without leaking any useful details. With the exception of a few number of people, nobody will ever know Zanjani’s secrets. And those who know them will not disclose them so as to ensure the survival of the regime, which will be the absolute winner in this case regardless of the outcome of the prosecution and investigation process. Only the third countries where the illegal monies were laundered will suffer from the repercussions of this illegal business.

SOURCE: Todays Zaman

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