The Ayatollah Gets Really Rich

December 10, 2013
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Concerned about shrinking revenue, the multi-billion dollar organization controlled by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, shook up the management of its charity division, appointing as its new chief Aref ‘The Land Shark’ Nozori, a man involved in the confiscation of thousands of properties from Iranian citizens. Nozori was named director general of the Barakat Foundation, Iran’s state news agency reported on Wednesday, November 27, 2013. The foundation is a large unit of the massive 300 billion euro business empire controlled by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that is known as Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam.

Iranian flag

The report by the Islamic Republic News Agency stated that Setad‘s president, Mohammad Mokhber, had, after being severely reprimanded by Khamenei, ordered the appointment of Norozi. Norozi, a major conduit in the transmission of money between Khamenei, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, once headed Setad’s real-estate division and serves on the boards of several Setad-linked companies.

As a result of Norozi’s professional experience, the report said, “It is expected that the Barakat Foundation’s activities will be more extensive than before.”

Things grow simultaneously more and more interesting as diplomatic overtures between Iran, the United States and Europe seem more and more likely to produce a number of new treaties and agreements. If and when, United Nations sanctions are dropped against the Islamist republic, Khamenei and his business partners are good and ready to become major players in the world financial marketplace. This was evidenced in the three-part series entitled Assets of the Ayatollah published by Reuters and detailing how Setad has become one of the most powerful institutions in Iran through the systematic seizure and sale of thousands of properties belonging to ordinary Iranians.

Setad’s properties are said to already be worth about US$52bn. Its various holdings in real estate, corporate stakes in a variety of industries and other assets total about US$95bn, Reuters has calculated. Through Setad, Khamenei has at his disposal financial resources, which, taken with untold billions already frozen by sanctions of banks in Cyprus, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, make him far richer than the old Shah, the late Western-backed monarch who was overthrown in Iran in 1979. Setad also controls the Barakat Foundation, a charity focused on economic development projects in rural areas and the controlling stake in the country’s pharmaceutical industry.

A Setad official said in April that through Barakat, Setad had spent more than US$1.6bn in the past five years on development projects. While the red-faced IRNA last week denounced the Reuters series as “disinformation” intended to undermine public trust in the Islamic Republic’s institutions, Reuters editors stood by the accuracy and fairness of its stories.

Meanwhile, according to IRNA, Khamenei’s concern is not with capitalism but “Solving” the problems of the deprived. “Solve the problems of 1,000 villages. It would be good to develop 1,000 places or to build 1,000 schools.”

Meanwhile, in Washington D.C. and Brussels, the lobbyists are getting ready for the new world order by advertising for translators fluent in Farsi on Craig’s List and in the Financial Times.  And in Georgetown, former Senator Fred Thompson, the highest paid ‘rock star’ of lobbyists, is taking a crash course in all things Persian and having a new brochure printed.

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