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    Posted August 25, 2014 by
    tehran, Iran

    Iran hangs corrupt businessman – when will Tejarat Aria Gostar Iranian Navid Co board be next?

    At the end of May, Iranian businessman Mah-Afarid Khosravi was hanged, following being linked to a 2.8 billion dollar fraud case. The Financial Times reports he was allegedly close to former Iranian president Mahmour Ahmadia-Nejad, and was sentenced in 2012 together with two other businessmen and a banker for forging credit notes and other documents from a partially state-owned bank.

    This has been seen one of President Hassan Rouhani’s firmest stands against corruption in his country. His predecessor Ahmadia-Nejad was seen to be not only lenient, but even complicit in corruption.

    Amongst those figures in Iran that will be the most nervous about the recent crackdown on corruption is the board of Tejarat Aria Gostar Iranian Navid Co. The company was set up by Hassan Afrashtehpour, a convicted embezzler, his brother Davoud as well as their partners Mohammadreza Aghaei and Yousef Zarei Nikjeh.

    Tejarat Aria Gostar Iranian Navid was incorporated on May 29,2011 – six days after the European Union passed sanctions against Iran in the wake of its nuclear enrichment program. The company officially trades in food commodities, such as sugar, but sources close the situation say it is a front to import weapons and products necessary to refine oil into Iran.

    The Afrashtehpours have a long history in smuggling and embezzlement, and they are known to have been protected by the Iranian government. Having running into a short bout of trouble after the revolution in 1979, when they were convicted or corruption but never served their sentence, the brothers built a vast property empire. Later, in 1997. They were sentenced for embezzling billions from a state bank. The money, believed to be in a friendly Arab gulf state, was never recovered, and the brothers never served their sentence – again.

    At the time the Afrashtehpours were described as "major developers in Teheran's booming construction sector" who were "dealing with city officials to obtain permits for high-rise buildings" in a local press report. They were untouchable by the law, because they were extremely well connected to the regime.

    In 2010, the brothers were convicted of illegally – that is, against the international sanctions – importing cell phones from a neighboring gulf state into Iran. Vast quantities of phones, it is understood, were smuggled into Iran with the help of Akbar Khoshkush, a former member of MOIS, the Ministry of Intelligence and national Security. Again the brothers brushed with the law, but they were shielded from above and not taken out.

    But could their luck have now run out? The hanging in late May shows that president Rouhani is serious about cracking down on corruption, in particular the kind that is linked to government employees.

    The Afrashtehpour brothers have a long history of embezzlement and smuggling, and Aghaei and Nikjeh are well advised to either sever their links with the brothers – or face potentially brutal punishment at the hand of the regime that used to shield them.

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