Iranian Billionaire Sentenced To Death


BEVERLY HILLS, March 06, (THEWILL) – An Iranian court has sentenced Babak Zanjani, a well-known billionaire, to death for corruption linked to oil sales during the reign of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

According to Gholam Hossein Ejei, judiciary spokesman, Zanjani and two others were convicted of embezzling billions of dollars from the national oil company.

“The court has recognized the three defendants as 'corruptors on earth' and sentenced them to death,” said Ejehi. “Corruptors on earth” is an Islamic term referring to crimes that are punishable by death because they have a major impact on society. The verdict, which came after a nearly five-month trial, can be appealed.

He was arrested in December 2013 after accusations that he withheld billions in oil revenue channeled through his companies, although he denies the allegations, he and his associates were ordered to repay embezzled funds.

Iran's Oil Ministry says Zanjani, 42, owes more than 2 billion euros ($2.25 billion) for oil sales he made on behalf of Ahmadinejad's government but is one of Iran's wealthiest businessmen, with a fortune worth an estimated $14 billion.

Born in Tehran, Zanjani attended a Turkish university and became a driver for Iran’s central bank head in 1999, when he started out in currency exchange

He had acknowledged using a web of companies in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Malaysia to sell millions of barrels of Iranian oil on behalf of the government since 2010.

The oil mogul was sanctioned by the EU and the United States for helping Iran evade sanctions and had argued that international sanctions were preventing him from handing over $1.2bn still owed to the government.

Iran has in the past executed other wealthy individuals found guilty of similar charges. In 2014, Iran executed billionaire businessman Mahafarid Amir Khosravi over corruption charges.

Story by David Oputah