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Prime suspect in corruption case admits helping Iran evade sanctions

By INU Staff

INU - The prime suspect in one of Iran’s biggest corruption trials has said that he helped Iran evade United Nations sanctions in order to continue exporting petrochemicals.

Reza Hamzehlou, the former CEO of National Iranian Petrochemical Industries Company (NIPIC), made this statement through his lawyer during the third session of the court hearings on April 10.

The case against Hamzehlou states that 13 suspects, including Abbas Samimi, a member of the NIPIC board of directors, made personal profits while exporting government-owned petrochemical products between 2011 and 2015 when international sanctions banned Iran from such trades.

The defence attorney told Judge Assadollah Massoudi said that Hamzehlou and Samimi were helping the Regime to profit by circumventing international sanctions and had the sole intention of serving the Regime and had no choice.

He said: "The suspects have deposited all hard currencies received for selling petrochemical products in the company's bank accounts. If they were after financial gains, they could have pocketed the whole amount."

He also said that NIPIC had declared that the accused owed no debts in foreign currencies. (It was revealed during the third session that Hamzehlou had pocketed roughly $8,710, 384.)

However, there have been plenty of contradictory statements throughout this case. In March, the NIPIC said that the suspects combined owed roughly $564 million, while on Wednesday, the company only said that the primary defendant had not paid his debts on time.

It is also unclear, because of contradictory statements by the prosecution and other judicial officials, whether the accused made a profit through converting the proceeds to the Iranian rial before returning the money, rather than reimbursing the government companies in hard currency or through outright embezzlement.

Three of the suspects are being tried in absentia, and only represented by their lawyers, because they are living outside Iran.

Hamzehlou stands accused of starting several companies in Turkey, with the help of Marjan Sheikholeslam, and making others register front companies to skip sanctions imposed on Iran.

Sheikholeslam, a former employee at the government's official news agency (IRNA) and newspaper Hambastegui, has lived in Canada since 2009. She claimed, on March 16, that all her companies’ activities were "legal” and "had nothing to do with money laundering and making a profit out of sanctions”.

The trial began one day after Ebrahim Raisi, who was involved in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners, was appointed as the head of the judiciary by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Iranian news outlets have called it one of the most significant embezzlement cases in the history of humankind.

 

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