A leaked audio file of IRGC commanders discussing massive financial corruption involving Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf has raised a storm in Iran.
The 50-minute audio-file includes a conversation between the former Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Commander Mohammad-Ali Jafari and his Economic Affairs Deputy Sadegh Zolghadr in 2018 about corruption involving IRGC's Qods Force and Tehran municipality and Ghalibaf, a former IRGC commander himself, who was Mayor of Tehran from 2005-2017. The corrupt dealing took place during Ghalibaf’s tenure as mayor.
The audio recording was published by Radio Farda, the Persian service of US-funded Radio Free Europe, on Thursday.
Some Iranian media have only cautiously reported the comments made by a member of the Parliament's National Security Committee, Mahmoud Abbaszadeh, and tweets by Ghalibaf's media advisor, Mohammad-Saeed Ahadian, both of whom tried to undermine the importance of the audio recording and its contents. The social media, however, is abuzz with hundreds of tweets about the leaked file the authenticity of which has far not been contested by anyone.
Abbaszadeh said Saturday that the publication of the recording was "enemy's psychological war" and warned about "infiltration" in the IRGC which resulted in the publication of the audio file. "We should admit that there is infiltration and that's a sad reality."
Mohammad-Ali Jafari (L) and current IGC commander Hossein Salami.
Ahadian, on the other hand, in several tweets claimed that the recording was leaked by Ghalibaf's enemies, he had been proven to be innocent by the Judiciary, and criticized hardliners close to former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili who are known as the Justice Seekers (Edalatkhah) of using the recording to attack Ghalibaf.
The discussion in the recording directly involves Ghalibaf, former Qods Force Commander Ghasem Soleimani, IRGC Coordination Deputy Jamaloddin Aberoumand, and Chief of the IRGC Intelligence Organization Hossein Taeb in covering up the embezzlement of 80,000 billion rials (around $3 billion at the time) between Tehran municipality and a firm controlled by the IRGC.
In the recording, Zolghadr tells Jafari that Ghalibaf suggested the IRGC and Tehran Municipality sign a false contract for the same amount to justify the disappearance of the money. "I told him [Ghalibaf[ that this would be a crime," Zolghadr says in the recording, claiming that Ghalibaf met him at a mosque near his house and demanded that he sign the memorandum but he did not agree. "It will harm me, it will harm Jafari, I will not sign it," he tells his boss in the recording.
Jafari tells Zolghadr that Soleimani who was well aware of the corruption, which prevented the funds from reaching the Qods Force, spoke to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei about it. In the recording Zolghadr says Khamenei had ordered 90 percent of the money earned by Yas Holding to be used to finance Qods Force and the remaining 10 percent to go to the IRGC for its general needs. He also says Taeb who has close ties to Khamenei's office and his son Mojtaba supports Ghalibaf in the matter.
Hossein Taeb, chief of IRGC intelligence (C), with Qasem Soleimani (R). Undated
Taeb has been accused of corruption in the past and is part of an inner circle of war veterans who served with Mojtaba Khamenei and have an influential network.
The money was mainly intended for funding the activities of Qods Force but somehow disappeared in the dealings between the municipality and Yas Holding, a subsidiary of IRGC's Cooperatives Foundation active in services, dealership, and subcontracting in the housing sector.
Yas Holding was officially dissolved in 2018, two years after its establishment, following the arrest of some of its officials. Four of the accused, including Ghalibaf's deputy in Tehran municipality, Isa Sharif, were put on trial and were sentenced to long prison terms and returning some of the huge sums they had embezzled.