Wednesday’s article reported that a Tehran court has been conducting an investigation into alleged corruption by Abolfazl Mir-Ali. Mir-Ali served as managing director of the bankrupt Samen al-Hojaj Credit Institution. His wife and another associate were named as co-defendants.
According to Shargh Daily, the court held a ninth hearing in the case this week.
In 2015, Samen al-Hojaj, after rapidly growing into one of Iran’s largest private lenders — with more than 480 branches since launching in 2001 in the northeastern city of Sabzevar — the credit institution went bankrupt.
In recent years, the collapse of unregulated private credit institutions in Iran, like Samen al-Hojaj and others, has triggered angry public protests by depositors who demand the return of their money and denounce the Iranian authorities for having allowed the institutions to mismanage their funds.
By offering Iranians interest rates that were much higher than those set by the Iranian central bank, and enabling those depositors to maintain the value of their savings during periods of high inflation, credit institutions such as Samen al-Hojaj grew their capital.
The report by Shargh Daily said that the court found that Samen al-Hojaj also provided tens of millions of dollars worth of gifts and favorable loans to government and military officials and celebrities. The interest rates on these loans were far lower than the rates offered by Iranian banks. Such practices are believed to have contributed to the institution’s demise.
#Samen_al-Hojaj the was the leading Farsi-language Twitter hashtag on Wednesday. Many Persian Twitter users said the case highlights the pervasiveness of corruption in Iran.
A resident of the northwestern city of Khalkhal said he believes corruption is institutionalized in Iran. He claims that when a young couple asks for a small loan after marriage, they have to go through a large bureaucracy and sometimes wait months to get the money. “So how is it possible that certain individuals (as in the Samen al-Hojaj case) can get billions of rials (tens of thousands of dollars) in loans in such a short amount of time?” he asked.
Many other people said that they believe that such privileges are only enjoyed by Iranians who are well-connected to the country’s powerful governmental, military, and clerical institutions.