The Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 3 TV, carried a 67-minute edition of its live weekly “Diruz, Emruz, Farda” (Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow) discussion program, which focuses on the issue of economic crimes in Iran. Mohammad-Hoseyn Ranjbaran hosts this week’s program, which features in-studio interviews with Judge Naser Seraj, head of the State Inspectorate Organization, and MP Mohammad`ali Purmokhtar, head of the Majles Article 90 Committee.
Officials Involved in $3-Billion Embezzlement Case Imprisoned
Commenting on the corruption scandals involving the members of three branches of government and their associates, Seraj reports that with respect to the approximately $3-billion embezzlement case, a number of former deputy ministers and director generals of the state organizations have been imprisoned: “The Head of the IMIDRO [Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization], a number of deputy ministers, some director generals of the roads and transport organizations, and the executive director of the Railways Services and Technical Construction Engineering Company were sentenced to jail.”
Anti-Corruption Laws Adequate, Not Implemented ‘Properly and Efficiently’
|MP Mohammad`ali Purmokhtar, head of the Majles Article 90 Committee
Asked whether the reason behind the economic corruption is the lack of relevant laws and legislations, and that what measures should be taken by the lawmakers to prevent such cases from happening, Purmokhtar says: “There are adequate laws and legislations to combat corruption, however, it is the responsibility of executive officials to implement them properly and efficiently.” He continues: “In most cases, since one individual is responsible for making several decisions, he could become the source of corruption.” He says that other factors such as lack of background check investigations on individuals applying for bank loans could lead to embezzlement: “Sometimes a long history of personal relationship between the applicant and organization or bank could help him get exempted from providing the requirements necessary for loan approval processes.”
Purmokhtar says that the Majles passed the Law of Promotion of Healthy Administrative System in 2011 in line with the establishment’s campaign efforts against economic corruption. He adds that however the law “is not properly implemented.” He deems “lack of oversight and implementation of laws” reasons behind failures to combat corruption.
Asked whether the vacuum of legislations or as mentioned by Purmokhtar the failure to implement the existing laws could be the source of corruption in Iran, Seraj says: “We have adequate and comprehensive laws with respect to combating corruption, but we are falling short when it comes to the enforcement of the laws.”
About One-Forth of Corruption Activities Organized By Networks
In response to a question on who is behind the economic crimes and whether they are operating as networks involving officials and state organizations, Purmokhtar says: “Our information mostly points to the involvement of individuals, however in about 20-25 percent of cases, these activities are organized by networks, which have people working for them in various organizations and state bodies.”
Majles, Government To Draft Anti-Corruption Campaign Strategies
On the recent steps taken by President Ruhani’s government to combat economic corruption, Purmokhtar says: “Fortunately, the 11th government has shown its desire to take actions in this regard, and during the two joint meeting held between some members of the Majles and the government, we all agreed that this campaign should be pursued, and it was decided there that working groups comprising of members from both branches should study the issue and draft related strategies.”
“White-Collar” Criminals Behind “Major” Corruption Activities
|Judge Naser Seraj, head of the State Inspectorate Organization
Here, the host points to the 2001 Supreme Leader Khamene’i’s 8-article decree on launching a campaign against “economic crimes,” and asks Seraj to clarify why the course of confronting the economic corruption “as expressed by the supreme leader” is not “satisfying.”
Seraj replies by stressing on the issue of “white-collar crimes,” saying that the judicial authorities are striving to arrest the “white-collar criminals.” He says: “Behind every major corruption case there is a white-collar criminal,” and continues: “We should focus on arresting these individuals, either by using the judicial task enforcement or in cooperation with the Anti-Economic Corruption Headquarters. In any occasions, as the crime is committed the Judiciary will take action, but sometime because of the lack of cooperation by other bodies the entire process would be hindered.” He goes on to call for cooperation of other bodies such as the Ministry of Intelligence, the Law Enforcement Force, and the Majles in this regard. He adds: “Many individuals are afraid of these white-collar criminals. They [white-collar criminals] easily create problems for those reporting the criminal activities.” He says that these criminals have formed “networks of individuals” operating in various state organizations such as customs offices and banks.
Here, the host asks Purmokhtar whether the Majles in general and the Article 90 Committee in particular has taken any actions in dealing with the issue of white-collar crimes.
Purmokhtar says: “On the surface, many of these white-collar criminals are appeared to be upright. They may even be the ones that lead people’s prayers. So, simply put, the white collar criminals are of like this. They usually operate behind the scene and we can catch them only if they get involved in the crimes directly.” He continues: “Unfortunately, even though these individuals are known to us, we have yet to take serious action in dealing with them.”
Mehdi Hashemi’s Case Pending, Requires More Evidence
Here, the host asks Seraj about the case concerning “son of an official,” by which he means the case of Mehdi Hashemi, son of Head of Expediency Council Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani. While not mentioning Mehdi Hashemi’s name, the host asks Seraj why the investigations surrounding this case, as he says, is taking so long.
Seraj says: “When a case is not complete, I usually return the case to the relevant authorities and ask for more evidence. That is what I did with respect to the embezzlement case as well. Regarding this particular case, I do not look at the suspect’s name. I look at the allegations contained in the bill of indictments.” Seraj adds that he has ordered more investigations regarding the case due to the lack of evidence for some counts in the indictment.