Iranian billionaire Babak Zanjani was sentenced to death Sunday for wrongfully keeping approximately $2.7 billion for himself after circumventing economic sanctions on Iran to sell oil abroad.
Zanjani’s misdeeds consisted of pocketing funds gained by circumventing economic sanctions, instead of transferring the money to the Iranian oil ministry, AFP reports. An Iranian judge referred to this as “corruption on earth,” which is a capital offense because of the massive impact it has on society. Two other individuals are also sentenced to death.
As far as Iran is concerned, 42-year-old Zanjani committed unforgivable offenses and now must also pay a fourth of the total amount he laundered back to the state, though the exact total is unknown. He netted a tremendous net worth from 2005 to 2013 by finding ways to circumvent economic sanctions and banking restrictions in order to sell oil outside Iran through a network of different companies.
Zanjani, whose net worth is estimated at $13.5 billion, was initially arrested in December 2013 as part of an effort by President Hassan Rouhani to crush the corruption that flourished under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the country’s previous president. Even before Zanjani was arrested, the United States and European Union had blacklisted him. Zanjani claims the reason he didn’t pay back Iran was because international sanctions prevented him from transferring $1.2 billion.
Rouhani’s oil minister Bijan Zanganeh has gone on record to condemn Zanjani and others like him for profiting at the expense of the state.
“We despise the corrupt parasites that want to suck the nation’s blood even in this situation,” Zanganeh said at an oil event in Tehran to cheers. “I recommend foreign companies stay away from these corrupt individuals.”
As part of the nuclear deal, a huge portion of sanctions on Iran were lifted at the beginning of 2016, prompting Zanganeh to urge foreign companies and governments to deal directly with Iran, as opposed to third-party individuals.
Iran previously executed billionaire Mahafarid Amir Khosravi in 2014 for corruption.
All is not yet lost for Zanjani. The judge noted he can still file an appeal.
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