This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Catastrophic Personal Fall From Grace

"In a way, this guy defeated the sanctions and helped keep Iran afloat in a very difficult set of economic circumstances."
"What he did was brilliant. He did it better than anyone else, he did it faster than anyone else."
"Zanjani may have used the same shell game designed to cover Iran's tracks from the prying eyes of the international community in order to blindside his Iranian paymasters."
Emanuele Ottolenghi, senior fellow, Foundation for Defence of Democracies
Babak Zanjani (centre) arrives for trial in Tehran, 1 November 2015
Photos have been released showing Zanjani (centre) arriving for trial in Tehran in November -- EPA

With demonic brilliance, an enterprising Iranian businessman ingratiated himself into the theocratic hierarchy to become an indispensable plotter to help the Islamic Republic of Iran bypass the financial sanctions imposed upon it by the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Canada. In the process he benefited not only the administration of the mullahs and in particular Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei but himself as well.

His operation of a hugely successful money laundering scheme made him a billionaire. And he did that by cleverly siphoning off money that should have gone to the Iranian treasury alongside all the money that did. Of course Supreme Leader Khamenei is not himself above filtering his massive personal profit from state treasury, but Babak Zanjani was not an elite spiritual leader but a pawn of the Revolutionary Guard who used his connections to entitle himself.

While he guided the government of Iran in evading international sanctions imposed as a result of its verboten nuclear program, he sold Iranian oil on the global market surreptitiously and successfully. He is now in prison, accused of withholding $2.7-billion of state money, that he had amassed. Early March saw his sentence handed down: death for corruption. He languishes, for the present, in the infamous Evin prison.

He was arrested in 2013, after then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's sinister reign was exchanged for that of the more cleverly restrained current president Hassan Rouhani. Zanjani's ties to the Revolutionary Guard Corps elite benefited him hugely. He consorted with the head of the brutal Basij militia, as well as Saeed Mortazavi, a former prosecutor accused of the torture murder of Canadian Iranian photographer Zahra Kazemi in Evin prison. 

Zanjani began his career at the highest echelons of Iranian government appointees by working with an engineering company operated by the Revolutionary Guard, which garnered him the attention of the Iranian oil minister. He was appointed to oversee a sanctions evasion network. And he did that successfully, at the same time taking the opportunity to embezzle money meant for government coffers. 
The Monte Toledo offloads Iranian crude oil in the Spanish port of San Roque, 6 March
The Monte Toledo offloaded Iranian crude oil in the Spanish port of San Roque -- BBC News
Reuters reported that Iranian ships at a Malaysian island transferred millions of barrels of oil in cover of night darkness to tankers under the flags of other countries. The acquisition of stakes by  Zanjani in the Malaysian-based First Islamic Investment Bank looked after the money laundering part of the scheme, to evade the ban on Iran's use of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.

It was only later, when the European Union placed sanctions on Zanjani personally and then on the companies he headed, then by the United States following suite, that the man found himself unable to pay Iran for the oil he was handling on their behalf.  His undoing.

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