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Iran: U.S. Slaps Fresh Sanctions, Targets Khamenei-Linked Foundation

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US Treasury building

The US Treasury Department on Wednesday imposed sweeping new sanctions targeting the Iranian regime, blacklisting Bonyad Mostazafan foundation controlled by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions also targeted the Iranian regime’s intelligence minister Mahmoud Alavi. The sanctions were imposed as “a key patronage network for Khamenei”. The sanctions also target ten individuals and 50 entities associated with the foundation in sectors including energy, mining, and financial services.

“Iran’s Supreme Leader uses Bonyad Mostazafan to reward his allies under the pretense of charity,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.

“The United States will continue to target key officials and revenue-generating sources that enable the regime’s ongoing repression of its own people,” Mnuchin added.

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday also blacklisted two Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officials, accusing them of involvement in the killing of nearly 150 people in the city of Mahshahr during last year’s crackdown.

Excerpts of the US Treasury Department’s Press release:

Treasury Targets Vast Supreme Leader Patronage Network and Iran’s Minister of Intelligence

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action today against a key patronage network for the Supreme Leader of Iran, the Islamic Revolution Mostazafan Foundation (Bonyad Mostazafan, or the Foundation), an immense conglomerate of some 160 holdings in key sectors of Iran’s economy, including finance, energy, construction, and mining. While Bonyad Mostazafan is ostensibly a charitable organization charged with providing benefits to the poor and oppressed, its holdings are expropriated from the Iranian people and are used by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to enrich his office, reward his political allies, and persecute the regime’s enemies.

OFAC is also designating Iran’s Minister of Intelligence and Security, Mahmoud Alavi, pursuant to human rights authorities. Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) has played a central role in the Iranian regime’s human rights abuses against Iranian citizens, including during the November 2019 protests.

“Iran’s Supreme Leader uses Bonyad Mostazafan to reward his allies under the pretense of charity,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The United States will continue to target key officials and revenue generating sources that enable the regime’s ongoing repression of its own people.”

BONYAD MOSTAZAFAN: AN ECONOMIC CONGLOMERATE CONTROLLED BY THE SUPREME LEADER

Today’s action targets the Islamic Revolution Mostazafan Foundation, also known as Bonyad Mostazafan or the Foundation; its leadership, presided over by former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) official Parviz Fattah; and 50 Bonyad Mostazafan subsidiaries in key sectors such as energy, mining, logistics, information technology, and financial services, which collectively account for a substantial portion of Bonyad Mostazafan’s multi-billion dollar economic empire. These entities and individuals are being designated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13876, which targets the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian Supreme Leader’s Office (SLO), as well as their affiliates.

Bonyad Mostazafan was created in the wake of the Islamic Revolution to confiscate and manage property, including that originally belonging to religious minorities such as Baha’is and Jews. The Foundation has since emerged as a source of power, wealth, and influence for the Supreme Leader and his inner circle.

Bonyads are opaque, quasi-official organizations controlled by current and former government officials and clerics that report directly to the Supreme Leader. Bonyads receive benefits from the Iranian government, including tax exemptions, but are not required to have their budgets publicly approved. They account for a significant portion of Iran’s non-petroleum economy, with the Foundation itself estimated to account for over one percent of Iran’s gross domestic product.

Bonyad Mostazafan’s vast economic wealth is partly the result of asset expropriation and business with human rights abusers and those involved with Iran’s support of international terrorism. As of 2017, the Foundation was owed nearly $2.5 million in trade debt by the Law Enforcement Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the IRGC, and Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL), all of which have been previously designated under multiple authorities, including counterterrorism authorities. The Martyrs Foundation repaid a similar debt of $1.65 million to the Foundation between 2016 and 2017.

Despite its outsized influence in the Iranian economy, Bonyad Mostazafan operates outside of government oversight and, due to a 1993 decree by the Supreme Leader, is exempt from paying taxes on its multi-billion-dollar earnings. The Supreme Leader has the authority to regulate its central accounts and personally profits from the Foundation’s holdings, which also line the pockets of his allies. Between 2015 and 2016, the Foundation transferred large sums of money to the SLO. In 2017, the Foundation financially contributed to candidates for Iran’s presidential election. Foundation managers worked for the campaign of candidate Ebrahim Raisi, a member of the Supreme Leader’s inner circle and the current Judiciary Chief, who is reportedly linked to the so-called “death commission” that ordered the extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Raisi was designated pursuant to E.O. 13876 in November 2019.

As of 2020, according to Bonyad Mostazafan President Fattah, Foundation properties have been occupied by the IRGC, the Iranian navy, the Iranian Parliament (Majles), and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, none of whom pay to do so. Ahmadinejad bases his office in an upscale property belonging to the Foundation, worth some $50 million in a wealthy neighborhood of Tehran.

The abuse of Bonyad Mostazafan’s assets also benefits the Supreme Leader’s inner circle. Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, a Khamenei confidant and the father-in-law of his son Mojtaba Khamenei, occupies Foundation property worth some $100 million, paying rent far below market rates. A member of Iran’s Expediency Council, Haddad-Adel, was designated pursuant to E.O. 13876 in November 2019. Mojtaba Khamenei was simultaneously designated pursuant to E.O. 13876 alongside Haddad-Adel.

While the Supreme Leader enriches himself and his allies, the Foundation’s primary mission to care for the poor has become a secondary objective. According to the Foundation’s previous president, in past years as little as seven percent of the Foundation’s profit has been spent on projects aimed at reducing poverty.

Bonyad Mostazafan is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13876 for being owned or controlled by, directly or indirectly, the Supreme Leader of Iran.

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