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Corruption in Iran’s Red Crescent

Following the arrest of several officials on Iran's Red Crescent, new scopes of corruption in this government-linked organization were revealed.

On 3 December 2019, the hardline wing of the regime announced the arrest of Ali Asghar Payvandi, the head of the Red Crescent Society of Iran. The detention was carried out by the intelligence directorate of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) while he was on his way to Geneva. The arrests by the IRGC indicated that there was a factional battle between the factions in the regime – especially when it became clear that Ali Asghar is the “cousin” of the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. 

In the context of a power struggle in Iran’s upper echelons, Payvandi is not the first official close to Hassan Rouhani who is detained by the IRGC. Earlier, Hussein Fereydoun, the brother of Rouhani, was also arrested and sentenced to five years in prison and a fee of 31 billion tomans for corruption and bribery. 

Prior to his arrest on December, Payvandi resigned and was planning to leave the country. A few days before his resignation from the Red Crescent Society, Payvandi had also resigned from the presidency of the Tehran Medical System. He previously served as the head of Tehran’s Beheshti University and the Tehran Medical’s Organization. 

History of the affair 

The corruption spree in the Red Crescent was leaked as was the pretext for a feud between the factions of the regime, while Mahmoud MohammadiNasab was ousted by Ali Asghar, the secretary-general of the Red Crescent Society on 9 December 2018. 

Then some senior Red Crescent executives resigned. The public relations department of the Red Crescent announced that “organizational upgrading was the reason for the dismissals and new appointments”. But soon the reality of the corruption was revealed. 

Mahmoud Mohammadi-Nasib, the fired secretary-general of the Red Crescent Society, exposed everything after his dismissal. They included: 

A failure to approve the annual Red Crescent balance for the first time in the Red Crescent’s history. 

Granting the power of attorney for the transfer of the Iranian hospital in Dubai at a cost of several billion tomans by Payvandi. 

A price difference of around € 8.5 million on the purchase price of the Holofiber product line. 

The presence of a person outside the Red Crescent who is involved in various projects, including the purchase of the Holofiber product line, the purchase of vaccine, participation in the Azgol construction project, etc. 

Paying over € 90,000 to a consultant to register a company in Europe by the Red Crescent. 

Corruption of the CEO of one of the Red Crescent’s organizations with a member of its board of directors and the head of one of its subsidiaries and a former partner who, after entering the Red Crescent, decided to register their shares under the name of their relatives. 

Unofficial visit by a senior Red Crescent official to the UAE and change of head of Dubai Iranian hospital 15 days later are the corruption cases by the Red Crescent. 

It was also announced that in the 5000 billion tomans budget of the Red Crescent in 2018, about 3000 billion tomans belong to the Iranian Investment Company, Procurement Organization and the Iranian Hospital of Dubai and no document has been disclosed on its use. 

State-run news website Mashreq revealed that: “The Red Crescent has received special privileges in the field of car imports. 

Mashreq also revealed the construction of a hospital in Oman by the Iranian Red Crescent Hospital in Dubai, which has a $14 million corruption case. 

Payvandi had also been summoned to the Economic Crimes Prosecutor’s Office on several occasions before the Red Crescent Medical Supply Agency’s corruption case. The organization is accused of importing fake drugs for leishmaniasis, which killed two people. 

In September 2019, Gholamhossein Ismaili, spokesman for the judiciary, confirmed the arrest of the head of the Helal Ahmar (Red Crescent) medical supply organization, saying: “There have been some cases of government-sponsored currency drug import and drug pricing violations and some free-market drug sales, and some have recently been arrested. 

Payvandi was finally arrested on November 2019 and released on bail of 3 billion tomans after a few hours. 

There is also speculation that the embezzlement of 1.5 billion tomans was linked to him at the time of his presidency at the University of Beheshti ten years ago. 

Mahmoud Sadeghi, a member of the parliament, said about the retention of Payvandi after the corruption case in the Red Crescent: “The Parliament, the Presidential Inspectorate, the General Inspectorate of the State, and the Supreme Council of the Red Crescent have investigated the matter, and it has become clear to everyone that he is a corrupt chief, but Rouhani has kept him.” 

The budget that Hassan Rouhani had proposed for the Red Crescent, headed by his cousinhad increased the staff ten times compared to 2018. 

Following the series of corruption in the Red Crescent of Iran, the Red Crescent Information Center announced on January 2020 that other officials from the Red Crescent, including the “Deputy Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Director-General of the Office of Planning and Budget, were arrested. And there is no exact reason for their arrest. 

Abdul Rasul Wassal, former editor-in-chief of the Shahrvand daily, in an interview with Sharq Daily spoke about a “drug and construction” shadow mafia net, which is controlling the Red Crescent and disrupting the workflow in this organization.  

While it is clear how disastrous the situation of the victims of natural disasters is, the IRGC’s use of Red Crescent facilities for terrorist operations in other countries has also been repeatedly exposed.

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