Top Ahmadinejad aide indicted amid massive graft case linked to Turkey

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 on Monday, reports Reuters and Today’s Zaman.

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.”

Mohsen Eftekhari, a Tehran judge, told the Shargh newspaper that Rahimi had been indicted and that his case would be referred to a special court. He did not specify the charges against him.

Rahimi has reported links to jailed businessman Babak Zanjani, chairman of the 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 Guards — a powerful branch of Iran’s military with extensive business interests — 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 on 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.

Rahimi has made no comment on the indictment and his lawyer, Mohammad-Reza Naderi, told the Shargh daily on Monday he would also stay quiet because this was in his client’s interest for now.

Last month, Turkish media reported that Iran had sent officials to Turkey to reclaim secret assets in Turkey of Zanjani and Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, an alleged business partner of Zanjani who is a suspect in a high-level graft probe in Turkey. Zarrab was detained on Dec. 17 as part of the investigation but was later released from jail, pending trial.

A report in the Yurt daily claimed that Zanjani was managing $14 billion in assets in various forms inside Turkey. Zanjani was detained in Tehran by Iranian officials in December 2013.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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