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Iran Sentences ‘Sultan of Cars’ to Death

Iran Sentences ‘Sultan of Cars’ to Death

Wednesday, 20 May, 2020 - 10:00
General view of a highway in Tehran, Iran. (Reuters)
London - Asharq Al-Awsat

Iran sentenced Vahid Behzadi, dubbed the “sultan of cars”, to death for a number of crimes, such as disruption of the country’s automobile market, currency smuggling and money laundering, announced Iran’s judiciary spokesman.

Spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said at a press conference that Behzadi, and his wife Najva Lasheidaee, are both involved in the cases and sentenced to death.

They are accused of purchasing and hoarding over 6,700 cars from the Saipa car factory, one of Iran’s two major car manufacturing companies.

Reuters reported that Esmaili spoke about the couple, in their early 40s, without giving any further details about them or their background.

“They have smuggled hard currency and laundered around $200 million,” he said. “Also, around 100 kg of gold and over 24,700 gold coins were found and seized in the couple’s home.”

The spokesman said the couple could appeal the verdict within 20 days.

In addition, two Iranian lawmakers, Fereydoun Ahmadi and Mohammad Azizi, were linked to a financial corruption case at Saipa and sentenced to 61 months in jail each on charges of “disrupting the country’s car market.

Neither lawmaker has commented publicly about the case.

Esmaili added that former CEO of the Saipa car factory, Mahdi Jamali, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for his involvement in distribution disruption mechanisms.

Iran’s judiciary has been waging a campaign against corruption at the state and private levels, especially with the deterioration of the economy due to US sanctions and the coronavirus outbreak.

Since August 2018, the Judiciary has been holding public trials of individuals involved in major financial corruption cases, including the brother of President Hassan Rouhani.

Hardline critics say state corruption has exacerbated since Rouhani was first elected in 2013, while the government dismisses the claims as politically motivated.

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