The Iranian regime has sentenced billionaire Babak Zanjani, 42, to death for “spreading corruption on earth,” the most serious crime in Iran’s criminal code.
According to CNN, Zanjani and two other men, deemed accomplices, were sentenced to death for embezzling billions of dollars from the national oil company. Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Ejei reportedly made the announcement on Sunday.
Zanjani, who is worth approximately $14 billion, was instrumental in helping Iran avoid the crippling sanctions imposed on it over the course of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s time in office. He found ways to channel hard currency from sales of Iranian oil.
As a result, both the United States and the EU sanctioned him. Zanjani was reportedly arrested in December of 2013 following current President Hassan Rouhani’s election into office.
Under Islamic Sharia Law, “corruption on earth” is punishable by death because of the ability it has to impact society. Sunday’s ruling can be appealed.
The Tehran Times notes that, before his arrest in 2013, Zanjani argued that international sanctions were preventing him from paying back the $1.2 billion he allegedly still owed the government. However, prosecutors allege he really owed the government over $2.7 billion in oil revenues. The three men were also ordered to pay restitutions to the regime, although the exact number is not clear.
“It’s the revolution eating its own,” Dr. Behzad Tabatabaei, an Iran expert and an international business and political economist, told Breitbart News of Zanjani’s arrest and pending execution. He noted that a founding member of the IRGC, who currently resides in the United States, described the IRGC as a business entity, a paramilitary force and a terrorist organization that also functions like the mafia. “There hasn’t been an organization quite like it in any other country,” Dr. Tabatabei said.
“It’s a very competitive and corrupt system. As a result, when someone [like Zanjani] gets ahead there is all sorts of competition to bring them down before they bring somebody else [from the regime] down,” he added. Dr. Tabatabaei explained that Zanjani was also part of the Revolutionary Guards Corps and that the regime specifically targeted him to prevent him from sharing his knowledge and helping others become wealthy off the regime’s oil revenues.
“You don’t take billions of dollars without the full knowledge and consent of the supreme religious guide [Ayatollah Khamenei] and his cabinet,” he said. “No one in the regime is able to rise to the top and put their hands in the cookie jar without paying homage to the supreme religious guide and giving him his fair share as well.” Noting Iran’s cultural predisposition to jealousy and severe competition, he said, “Everybody is envious of everybody else’s position and because there are no checks and balances, everybody tries to get a piece of the pie before somebody else takes it away from him.”
The IRGC is so corrupt that in nations where they have a presence, individuals with influence have asked leaders to be connected to members of the IRGC so as to enter into business dealings with them.
Other wealthy individuals, with close ties to the regime, have also been executed. In 2014, Iran executed tycoon Mahafarid Amir Khosravi by hanging for “corruption on earth” after he allegedly perpetrated a $2.6 billion bank fraud. Khosravi’s execution was so sudden that his lawyer, Gholam Ali Riahi, reportedly said he was not given notice that his client would be executed during the weekend.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.