Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Economic Corruption and Iranian Officials

Farnaz Ghazizadeh, Rooz Online: a pro-reformist website
Iran's prosecutor general recently said that economic corruption in the country was overwhelming but that there was no transparency on this either. In the same light, the director of the Centre to Combat Economic Corruption has confessed that he will not be able to release the names or organizations involved in economic corruption, unless he receives permission from higher authorities. Such comments indicate a new twist in dealing with this crisis.

Two decades after Iran's Islamic revolution, economic corruption has been a permanent challenge for the government but the lack of transparency in such cases is a clear testimony of how close the corruption is to the powerful and influential government officials. In well-known case of bribery and corruption cases only those who are not famous are convicted and punished. If officials or prominent names come up in corruption cases, the judiciary has in the past protected them both from publicity and also from prosecution.

Despite the creation of a committee consisting of senior officials of the three branches of government, officials have been reluctant to give details of economic corruption cases to the public. Dori Najaf Abadi, a senior government official has called for the supervision of Iran’s parliament (Majlis) over the contracts that import goods into the country, the oil and non-oil contracts, as well as foreign exchange savings and privatization, and other types of deals.

It seems that such supervision is currently done by supervisory bodies that misuse their role to exploit their political interests. Names of senior officials, their children and close relatives have frequently come up in economic corruption cases although their names disappear at the final stages of the prosecution.

On some rare occasions, the authorities that are responsible to combat economic corruption cases threaten to reveal the names of high profile individuals. In one case, after months of delay, when the official report of a case was publicly announced, the reporters were astounded by the incredibly large sums of bribes and theft. There was talk about the return of some 10,380 billion Rials (the equivalent of about $12 billion) to government accounts!

The director of the Majlis (Parliament) committee that reviews economic corruption cases has said that 704 cases of abuse of power and government posts have been finalized and 395 other files are under review. He says 1100 individuals have been arrested and interrogated, while 2400 have been summoned by the Ministry of Intelligence for questioning. The main corruption cases have occurred in the oil, mines, and industries sectors of the economy, and to a lesser degree in the transportation and land transfer cases.

The presence of such astronomical figures and deep corruption cases within the government system indicate that officials have not been able to take charge of people's rights.