Reasons behind arrest of Iranian billionaire still unclear

The tycoon’s arrest came a day after President Hassan Rowhani publically ordered his government to fight “financial corruption”

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Just days after the arrest in Iran of Iranian billionaire Babak Zanjani, who allegedly headed up a business network that bypassed the oil embargo on the country, the reasons behind his arrest are still unclear.

Zanjani, who has acknowledged that since 2010 he used a web of more than 60 companies based in the UAE, Turkey and Malaysia to sell millions of barrels of Iranian oil on behalf of the government, had an estimated net worth of around $13.8 billion.

The tycoon’s arrest came a day after President Hassan Rowhani publically ordered his government to fight “financial corruption,” particularly “privileged figures.”

Some observers have said that the arrest was a move to reassure the West as to Iran’s positive intentions regarding the interim nuclear deal struck in November, while others have added that since Zanjani’s business dealings were made public in the ongoing Turkish graft probe, he has become a disposable player.

Iranian media has reported widely on Zanjani and his arrest, however, the pro-Revolutionary Guard media, traditionally more conservative, has focused less on the arrest.

Zanjani allegedly had close ties with the Revolutionary Guard and supposedly registered international companies in his name, on their behalf.

Digarban, a website that monitors hardline news outlets in Iran, quoted Mohsen Mirshamsi, the correspondent of Tasnim news agency close to the Revolutionary Guard, saying that the network of Babak Zanjani in Turkey was discovered within Iran, in a post on his Facebook page.

The report adds that sources from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards hold Rowhani’s government responsible for dismantling the billionaire’s network in order to “gain the trust” of the West.

The report also alleges that some commanding officers of the Revolutionary Guards are displeased with the government over the arrest, viewing it as an attempt to undermine the organization.

For its part, Entekhab, a news website closely aligned with Ali Larijani, chairman of the Iranian Parliament, had “predicted” the arrest of Zanjani before it happened.

On Wednesday, Entekhab reported that Zanjani had been introduced to the advisor of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 and began conducting business ventures on behalf of the government at that time.

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