Deatils about a major corruption case at Iran's Mobarakeh Steel Plant have implicated dozens of media outlets, influential individuals and state entities .
Documents posted on social media revealed that some 125 Iranian media outlets have been receiving hefty sums of money from the MSP possibly to turn a blind eye on financial corruption at the company and its widespread financial conglomerate including several wealthy subsidiaries.
Earlier this week, the steel plant, with majority ownership by state institutions, was suspended by the Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE) following a scathing parliament report about an alleged $3 billion corruption case.
On August 22, investigative journalist Saba Azarpeik posted a ten-page list of individuals and legal entities on the MSP's payroll. The list includers several individuals linked to grand ayatollahs, as well as media outlets including the state television and hardline daily Kayhan which operates under the direct supervision of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. There were also journalists and newspaper publishers including some well-known reformist figures, state organizations including Iran's notorious Intelligence Ministry, and Friday prayer imams in scores of Iranian cities.
Social media users noted that President Ebrahim Raisi has ordered some of those involved in wrongdoings at the steel plant to be fired. As one user observed, "They are fired to leave the country and have a good time abroad with the windfall money. We expected some punishment, but apparently, no one knows what will happen to the people's money."
Iranian political analyst Mehdi Mahdavi-Azad said in an interview with Iran International TV that big corruption cases in Iran happen in the absence of supervisory bodies, free media, and an independent judiciary. He said there has been no contract whatsoever for some of the money paid to the media. Mahdavi added that some Twitter influencers were paid to deny any report on financial corruption.
Raisi said while commenting on the unusually big corruption scandal that "Despite financial corruption cases the regime comes clean." Political activist Asieh Amini told Iran International that "Officials have told the media to describe the case as organized corruption rather than systemic corruption to avoid generalizing the wrongdoings to the entire Iranian political system." Like Mahdavi-Azad, Ms. Amini attributed the corruption to lack of transparency of the legislative and executive bodies and the absence of free press and independent judiciary.
Amini said corruption appears quite natural in a non-democratic political structure. Raisi in a way denies the corruption because he knows that systematic corruption is so widespread in the Iranian political system that all parts of the government, the legislative and the judiciary branches contribute to it. She added that many major corruption cases in Iran since the 1990s have ended in a way that everything was swept under the carpet.
Economist Ahmad Alavi explained how a major economic conglomerate which is present in the stock market can be overwhelmed by financial corruption. He said, "The problem is that true privatization is impossible in Iran and the so-called privatized companies are being controlled by the elements linked to the regime and its key people. Even the smallest private companies are usually blackmailed and milked by security officials, IRGC officers and clerics such as Friday prayers imams."
Alavi added that "there are different forms of corruption in Iran including political, economic, judicial, security, and media corruption. Even the educational and sports systems as well as religious and political institutions are corrupt in Iran. In such a system, no company in Iran can evade corruption."