By Ardalan Sayami, Rooz online
Serving Citizens or Money Laundering Tools?
Bank Serving Citizens" is a slogan that is repeatedly broadcast on the national
Islamic Republic television these days. Ansar was a financial institution that
became a private bank after it obtained a permit from Iran's Central Bank; the
same permit obtained by the "Mehr Iranian Organization" and "Ghavamin Charity
Fund." These institutions all belong to the Islamic Republic's military
establishment. Ansar and Mehr Iranian were founded by the Islamic Passdaran
Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and Ghavamin belongs to the Iranian police.
Many economic observers connect the establishment of private banks by the military to related to issues such as money laundering and international sanctions. Last week especially, news stories in the Arab media reported that Bahrain's interior minister was removed from his post and served a weeklong prison sentence for his involvement in an IRGC money laundering scheme. Official sources have denied the report but investigations are ongoing.
Since the coming to power of Ahmadinejad, the IRGC has become a visible player in the Iranian economy. The Khatam brigade is the symbol of this development, running projects in various sectors (oil, gas, roads, dams) of the economy and industry.
In addition to the two financial institutions, which have grown under the Ahmadinejad administration, the IRGC engages its vast economic activities through affiliated institutions such as the Khatam brigade and the IRGC's cooperative union. The website Deutsche Welle quoted an economist (Ahmad Alavi) as having said that there is a very direct political relationship between the coming to power of the ninth and tenth administration and the IRGC's dominance over the economy. Article 44 of the Iranian economy mandates privatization, but its implementation would diminish the government's control over the economy. Therefore, officials want the constitutional provision to be implemented only in name so that they can preserve their power.
Meanwhile, on March 24, regional media outlets reported the arrest and removal of Bahrain's interior minister, Mansour bin Rajab, for his involvement in an IRGC money laundering scheme. The case also involves Ali Jannati, Iran's ambassador to Kuwait and the son of ayatollah Jannati, head of the powerful Guardian Council. Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran's ambassador to Bahrain, has said that the IRGC played no role in the Bahrain money laundering case.
The IRGC has not reacted to the new, although Bahrain's interior minister, who remains under arrest, has denied cooperation with the IRGC. News sources report that Mansour bin Rajab was caught while trying to cash a check, originating from the IRGC, worth 6 million Euros at a bank in Beirut. Arab media have claimed that the money came from drug smuggling, suggesting a money laundering scheme.
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