Disclosures about a $3 billion corruption case at one of Iran's biggest steel plants, has put the governing hardliners in the center of the embarrassing case.

While conservative camp thought the disclosure would discredit the ‘Reformist’ government, the details of the case have affected the reputation of many of its figureheads, including clerics.

In a belated report on the case, IRGC-linked Fars news agency tried to cover up the corruption case at Mobarakeh Steel Company (MSC), claiming that a major part of the figure involved is about the difference in the price of steel at different times. The report further claimed that Iran International and BBC Persian have been putting gasoline on the fire to disturb the Iranian public's mind.

Moderate news website Rouydad24 observed in a report that hardliners at the Iranian parliament initially launched the investigation and published the results to discredit the reformists.

Rouydad24 said in the report that "The hardliners in parliament who disclosed the corruption case never thought that anyone would read a 300-page report to find out about the damning details. They thought people would only listen to their rhetoric about the case."

But social media activists published a ten-page document including the names of tens of Iranian hardliners and individuals and organizations linked to them who had received hefty sums from the Steel Plant. These included many media outlets, such as news agencies, newspapers, websites and even the state television that operates under the supervision of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Mobarakeh steel plant is the biggest producer in the Middle East with 350,000 workers

Reports also indicate that several social media influencers were also paid possibly to turn a blind eye to the illegal payments by the MSP. Saba Azarpeik, a whistle blower on social media later said that she was offered large sums of money to stop writing about the case.

When the disclosure backfired, it was revealed that many Friday prayer imams were paid by the steel plant. None was seen to refute the reports. Also, newspapers such as the IRGC-linked Javan and Khamenei-linked Kayhan did not try to deny having received money from the MSC. Those who issued denials in the reform camp included a newspaper publisher who said he had received hundreds of billions of rials (tens of thousands of dollars) for writing only three articles about the steel plant.

According to Rouydad24, even some of the lawmakers involved in the investigation were themselves implicated in the corruption case.

The Majles (parliament) that had initially ordered, conducted and published the results of the investigation tried to distance itself from the matter and sent the case to the Judiciary for further investigation.

Iran's Chief Justice Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said subsequently that a special court and a special prosecutor have been tasked to launch an investigation into the case. However, no further action seems to have been taken, at least in public, to address the concerns, other than President Ebrahim Raisi's order to fire the MSC managers who violated the law.

To explain the magnitude of the money involved in the case, 3.5 billion dollars, some Iranian social media users reminded that Elon Musk's investment on the Spex project this year was $2 billion.A study conducted by social media researcher Mohammad Rahbari said some 17,000 tweets in Persian were posted by Iranians on the MSC corruption case in less than one week, adding that half of "liked" posts were those that criticized the government and reiterated that Iran was plagued by systematic corruption.

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