Judiciary is deep in a black hole of corruption
To better understand the Iranian regime’s institutionalized corruption, it is necessary to refer to the regime’s Judiciary. Although it is not possible to shed light on all aspects of this corrupt institution, we can identify and understand parts of this organized corruption by going through reports and news published in this regard over the last few years.
One of these cases is that of Akbar Tabari and his current trial. He has been Executive Vice President and Director General of Finance of the Judiciary for more than 20 years. Therefore, his trial, in addition to being vastly covered by media, is very important.
Who is Akbar Tabari?
Tabari was the deputy of former Judiciary Chief Sadeq Larijani. Despite having a top position within the Judiciary there are few reports about him prior to his arrest and trial. As an engineer, Tabari spent much of his career in the regime’s Judiciary without having any legal expertise.
The Judiciary was criticized and identified as a center of corruption during Tabari’s tenure. Yet, he was able to stay in the shadows for years. His name was heard and read within four months of his dismissal in 2018. Finally, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Intelligence arrested him on July 14, 2019. A glance of his controversial case could clarify and show the traces of corruption within other organizations and institutions of the mullahs’ regime.
According to Tabari’s indictment, along with receiving dozen billion toman direct bribes, he has illegally received a 300 square meter (sqm) plot of land in Karim Khan street in Tehran, a 1,657 sqm forested land in Lavasan, a 108 sqm office-apartment in Qeytarieh, northern Tehran, five land pieces and a villa in Babolsar, northern Iran, three housing units in Farmaniyeh Flora Tower, and three residential apartments in Northern Kamranieh, Tehran.
Tabari’s defense over receiving these huge amounts of money and lands in Lavasan, not only clarifies this issue but sheds light on the regime’s institutionalized corruption.
He told the judge: “If I demand 800 billion tomans, these brothers will give it to me. And if I want entire Lavasan and its factory, they will give them to me. This is called friendship. If you do not have such friends, it is none of [my] business. If they ask the same favor from me, I will do it for them.”
Tabari is just one example of the institutionalized corruption of the regime’s Judiciary, which has been revealed to the public. Therefore, to whitewash corruption in this body, which ultimately ends at the top of the regime, they stage trials of well-known corrupt people. In other words, they are being sacrificed to save the regime’s top officials.
Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i, the Judiciary’s first Deputy, during a press conference in June 2019 said: “60 judges have been fired within the last 12 months. Some of them are permanently dismissed from governmental and Judiciary services. But some of them are just dismissed from Judiciary. Some have dismissed by redemption. In addition to dismissal and disqualification, some are being prosecuted.”
Tehran’s former Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi was one of the judges permanently dismissed.
Mortazavi was a former head of a Press Court and former Tehran’s former Prosecutor who, for many years, seized more than a hundred publications and imprisoned hundreds of journalists or even internal critics of the regime. His name was mentioned in the report of the regime’s Sixth Majlis [Parliament] Investigative Committee as the perpetrator in the murder case of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photographer, and in the report of the eighth Majlis Research Committee as the main culprit in the case of torture and murder of prisoners in Kahrizak Detention Center during the 2009 nationwide Iran protests.
In addition to his political-security charges, he was charged with financial fraud and embezzlement in two other separate investigative reports. In the report of the Seventh Majlis Research and Investigation Committee of the regime’s Judiciary in 2099, Mortazavi was accused of “selling entrance exam questions”. The report of the Ninth Majlis’s investigation of the Social Security Organization accused Mortazavi of billions of Tomans of financial misconduct, including the illegal transfer of 138 companies belonging to the Social Security Organization to Babak Zanjani, a well-known corrupt figure.
Mortazavi went to court for his social security case and was sentenced to 70 lashes for illegal seizure of state property. However, the execution of this sentence was cancelled in February 2019 due to the amnesty issued by the regime’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. During the Kahrizak trial, Mortazavi was initially sentenced to five years in prison, dismissal of service, and a 200,000 tomans fine. His prison sentence was reduced to two years for “expressing regret”, but he did not fully complete this and was released in September 2019, after serving two-thirds of his imprisonment.
In another case, Mahmoud Sadeqi, then-Member of Majlis, revealed in November 2016 that Sadeq Larijani, then-Judiciary Chief, had deposited billions of tomans of the Judiciary’s funds to his personal account. After this, Sadeqi spoke of Larijani’s account on many occasions.
In March 2017, during the parliament’s session, he said: “The Judiciary has paid 285 billion tomans more than its legal fees as special and extraordinary rewards and salaries, and the financial violations of this power have been ten times more than the violations of astronomical salaries.”
The career and corruption cases of some of these corrupted Judges, such as fugitive Judge Gholam-Reza Mansouri, who was murdered in Romania, and corrupt press-judge Bijan Ghassem-Zadeh, are only a small part of the financial performance of judiciary figures, which have been publicly examined in official Iranian institutions. Now, as the regime reaches its end, we will witness the opening of other financial and non-financial cases of corrupted judges.
Mansouri was one of the famous defendants in Tabari’s case. He was the head of Branch 9 of the regime’s Culture and Media Court, and later became the executive judge of Lavasanat district. During his tenure, Mansouri had committed a great deal of corruption. He is accused of accepting a bribe of 500,000 euros before fleeing from Iran to Europe. A few days before his days, in a video message, Mansouri emphasized he “deeply believes” in the regime, its Judiciary, and Khamenei, and “has never turned his back on them.” Yet, expressing regret, unlike Mortazavi, did not work this time, and Mansouri was suspiciously killed in Bucharest, Romania.
Another case of these Judiciary officials belongs to Ali-Akbar Heydarifar. Heydarifar was the assistant prosecutor of the Revolutionary Court and had direct involvement in sending detainees of the 2009 Iran protests to Kahrizak detention centre. He never regretted killing people there. Two years after the tragedy at Kahrizak, in a letter to the press, Heydarifar called those detainees “thugs” and highlighted that “dealing with them deserves a reward”.
Yet, a couple of years after the 2009 incidents, it became clear that in addition to his mistreatment and brutality regarding protesters, Heydarifar had vast corruption cases.
In June 2017, Mohseni-Eje’i acknowledged: “Heydarifar has cases [of corruption]. [One] has not been finalized but the other one, having some accusations, have heavy punishment… For his second case the maximum sentence, which is 15 years of imprisonment, has been issued.”
In July 2017, Gholam-Hossain Esmaili, then-Chief Justice of Tehran Province counted Heydarifar’s crimes as: “illegal confiscation, illegal use of state’s property, accepting bribes, using weapons and fights in different cases”. In February 2018, Abbas Jafari-Dolat Abadi, then-Tehran Prosecutor, without giving further explanation, announced another indictment against Heydarifar on six other charges, which have not been clarified.
History of corruption in regime’s Judiciary, according to state-run media
Mohammad Yazdi, the first head of the regime’s Judiciary, was accused of various charges of corruption. One of the most controversial revelations was made by Abbas Palizdar, secretary of the Judiciary Inquiry and Review Committee in the 7th Islamic Consultative Assembly of the Judiciary on May 03, 2008.
In his part of his speech, while referring to the Yazdi’s financial violations during the project of building a “Judiciary University” in Qom, said: “They obtained the approval of Khamenei to open a female school for judicial studies in Qom. After obtaining the approval, they immediately sought financial support for the project and, in this case, they asked for the transfer of ownership of Dena Tire Factory. To evaluate the price of the factory some official experts from the Justice Department who also worked for the Judiciary priced it at $126 million while its actual price was over $600 million. In their evaluations, the properties owned by the factory, which amounted to millions of dollars were not even considered. This was Dena Factory which went to Yazdi when he was the head of the Judiciary. But when it came to making the payment, he asked for a discount and he immediately got 50% off. He wrote again and asked for more discount and it went on five times and, in the end, he was asked to pay only 10 million, a drop from 126. But even so, they said they did not have 10 million to pay, therefore they were proposed to pay 80% in long term installments and 20%, that is 2 million, in cash. They again said that they did not have any money to pay for the 2 million, therefore they were offered a loan of 23 million dollars by the Iranian National Industries Organization. They were then asked to see [the] Ayatollah … to get his signature and take over the Factory. It was shortly after this that the factory was sold and transferred to those who carried out manipulations from behind the scene.”
While referring to Yazdi’s other case of corruption, Palizdar said: “Yazdi wrote and said ‘Mr. Foroozesh, my son Hamid is unemployed’ and asked for special arrangements to allow his son to make use of the forests in the north to export the wood. This was while his son was director-general in the Judiciary. Unfortunately, the forests in the north have been looted.”
Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, who proceeded Yazdi, was also accused of having several cases of corruption. Tabari became the Judiciary’s Financial Director. Some of Sahroudi’s corruption cases were revealed, during the regime’s infightings, by the Parliaments Investigation Committees.
According to the report of the Ninth Majlis Inquiry Commission of the Social Security Organization, Mortazavi, who was appointed by Shahroudi as the Tehran Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office and later became the head of the Social Security Organization, received seven very expensive lands, without holding an auction, from Adalat University had which was under the supervision of Hashemi Shahroudi. However, according to the law, the property of the Social Security Organization had to be sold at auction.
Another stunning report, which was conducted by the regime’s Seventh Majlis over the Judiciary’s actions under Shahroudi read: “Unfortunately, the Judiciary has not enough resolution to punish economic criminals. According to the cases that have reached the Board of Inquiry, we can well understand the negligence in dealing with economic corruption and sometimes collusion with corrupt people. In this regard, although sending a lot of questions to the judiciary, the board tried to make the Judiciary answer them. Unfortunately, the board’s questions were not answered.”
Part of the Majlis Inquiry Board’s report refers to the accounts possessed by the Judiciary Chief, which had funds deposited by individuals to the court as fines, bail or other items.
In this regard, the report adds: “The Board, in a letter to the Judiciary Chief, asked his excellency about the fixed amount of people’s deposit to the Judiciary, the interest of the financial transactions of the referred accounts the license and the method of using these funds. Unfortunately, despite repeated follow-up, the Judiciary has not given an answer to these issues.”
Finally, the Judiciary’s Assistant Financial Deputy gave answers to these questions, which, according to the Inquiry Board, did not match the results of the inquiry from the Central Bank and the National Bank on the number of deposits and their interests.
The power struggle and regime’s infighting
Larijani had many critics during his tenure as the regime’s Judiciary Chief, including the regime’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and then-MP Sadeghi, who accused Larijani of financial corruption.
Following his dismissal from the Judiciary, Khamenei appointed Larijani as the head of the regime’s Expediency Discernment Council. With this appointment, Khamenei was intending to keep Larijani secret. Yet, during the regime’s infightings, other regime officials continued to attack Larijani and speak about his corruption. Therefore, in a statement, the Office of the Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, in addition to defending Larijani, also denied allegations of corruption against Tabari.
The statement read: “Some of the allegations against the executive Vice President of The Judiciary have already been investigated in court and have been proven to be false. The former Head of The Judiciary had independently examined them and found them to be wrong.”
Yet Tabari was arrested 16 days after this statement.
Due to his position, Larijani had access to important cases and since he is concerned about the revelation of his role in the ten-year presidency of the corrupt judiciary, he had previously warned regime officials, including Raisi.
On August 7, 2019, Larijani said: “My heart is the treasury of secrets of accusations against Members of Majlis, Deputies and family members of officials.”
These words terrified the regime’s officials, particularly Khamenei, that further revelation of cases related to Larijani and his probable revelations in retaliation will increase the regime’s problems.
#Iran: A glance at Ebrahim Raisi’s background, known for his role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, clarifies who he is and why Khamenei has chosen him as the head of the Judiciary and possibly the future supreme leader #HumanRightshttps://t.co/lSng19uezK
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) June 27, 2020
The main reason of Tabari’s trial and revealing Larijani’s corruption is part of a power struggle between Larijani and his ilk with Raisi under Khamenei’s direct guidance, who intends to have Raisi as his successor. But since the regime is riddled with crises and above all faces a restive society, any fight at the top of the regime will pave the way for a nationwide uprising that ends in the regime’s downfall.
For this reason, Khamenei told the regime’s current Judiciary’s officials on June 27, 2020: “The anti-corruption movement by the Judiciary is perfectly visible, started during Mr. Amoli Larijani’s tenure. He initiated [this movement] both inside and outside of the Judiciary and this should not be undermined.”
Khamenei’s support of Larijani indicates his utter belief that this infighting will lead to himself as the head of the “Hydra of Corruption” and, for this reason, he warns other officials not to get close to Larijani. Because according to the regime’s constitution, it is the supreme leader who appoints the Judiciary Chief. Therefore, Khamenei was not only knowing all the aspects of this corrupted institute, but he has been directly involved in it.