A parliament session on May 9, 2023

A parliament session on May 9, 2023

SUV-Gate Whistleblower Indicted In Iran For ‘Unsubstantiated Allegations’

Tuesday, 05/16/2023

A lawmaker who had recently revealed bribery involving a former minister and seventy lawmakers in Iran has been indicted for “making a claim without evidence”.

Mizan, the official news agency of the country’s judiciary said Tuesday that Ahmad Alirezabeigi, representing the northwestern city of Tabriz in the parliament, was indicted based on a report by the parliament’s board supervising lawmakers’ conduct. 

The board ruled that the whistleblower had not offered any evidence for his claim of bribery, although after his revelation evidence emerged that more than 70 lawmakers had received SUVs from carmakers accountable to the minister of industry. 

In an interview with Etemad newspaper on April 30, Alirezabeigi described his meeting with the board as “a political trial”. 

He insisted that his claim was proven by the fact that an official of the parliament’s human resources department had signed the letter to the company that made the offer of cars below market value with installments and without any interest. The letter contained a list of lawmakers who signed up to receive the cars. 

Ahmad Alirezabeigi, representing the northwestern city of Tabriz in the parliament

Alirezabeigi and another lawmaker, Hossein Jalali, also claim that Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf was aware of the offer of cheap cars for lawmakers. 

According to Mizan, Alirezabeigi has made his final defense and a court order (writ of security) has been issued to ensure he would return to the court when summoned. 

Alirezabeigi revealed in late April that over seventy SUVs were offered to the lawmakers at a lower price by the ministry of industry ahead of lawmakers’ discussion of a motion in December last year to impeach former minister of industry, Reza Fatemi-Amin. The minister was accused by at least 40 members of parliament of “inadequate performance” including failure to control rising prices for domestically produced vehicles, their low quality, preventing competitive imports, and corruption in the industry. 

The first impeachment drive failed as many lawmakers stopped supporting the motion, allegedly after receiving the vehicles. Eventually, parliament sacked Fatemi-Amin on April 30th, two days after Alirezabeigi’s revelation, despite the government and Fatemi-Amin’s denials of any wrongdoing. 

Iran’s Industry Minister Reza Fatemi-Amin after the parliament session to impeach him on April 30, 2023

More than 200 members of parliament have sent text messages to the public or told the media that they were never involved in the scheme and had not benefited from it. The media have published a list of others who have not denied receiving the SUVs. These include both Ghalibaf supporters and hardliner Paydari Front lawmakers. 

Importing cars has been mostly banned by the government in recent years and domestic production is limited, making personal vehicles a sought-after commodity. Obtaining domestically produced vehicles is hard and there are long waiting lists that boosts their price.

Alirezabeigi who has close ties to the former populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims he only meant to combat corruption and had no hidden agenda when he disclosed the bribery by automakers on behalf of the minister.

Khabar Online, a news website close to the former moderate-conservative speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, wrote Saturday that the scandal has turned into an excuse for the two major groups of hardliners in the parliament -- supporters of Ghalibaf and Paydari Front lawmakers – to settle political accounts.

“I was not personally offered to receive a car, but I have seen the cars in the parliament. They were in the parliament’s parking lot and were given to lawmakers. The matter is quite clear,” Bigdeli told Asr-e Iran news website on April 27. 

“Some people gain privileges on various excuses to compromise and undermine the supervisory duty of the parliament,” he said on April 30 while calling such bribery a “tradition in the parliament” to prevent impeachments.

IITV News (12) - DC
Chand Chand
IITV News (12) - DC

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