Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during a meeting with a group of clerics in Tehran on July 12, 2023

No Accountability As Khamenei’s Ayatollahs Steal Millions

Sunday, 07/16/2023

They preach on Fridays telling Iranians to tolerate economic hardship but Khamenei's ayatollahs enjoy immunity for corruption as his regional representatives. 

Revelations about numerous cases of economic corruption and land and forest grabs by Ali Khamenei’s representatives across the country have outraged Iranians with fury so deep that even a few brave politicians have dared to speak out. 

The Friday Prayer Imams, the regional representatives pushing the regime rhetoric, have managed to evade prosecution and remain immune to legal consequences. 

The latest case involved Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda -- the Friday Imam of Mashhad and the father-in-law of President Ebrahim Raisi– who has been pocketing large sums of money from the Goharshad endowment without any real responsibility or duties. 

Last week, Vahid Ashtari, a hardline whistle-blower known for revealing corruption among Iran’s senior officials, published a thread of tweets with details about one of the biggest financial endowments of the country, Goharshad, ironically meaning Happy Jewel in English. The endowment is second only to the "Astan Quds Razavi," another charity controlled by clerics close to Alamolhoda. As part of the decree that gives the charitable foundation to Alamolhoda, he can have 10 percent of its total income as his personal salary, while another 10 percent provides the salaries of all the other staff who work there. Alamolhoda has confirmed the reports but claims that whatever he is doing is legal. 

Ahmad Alamolhoda (center) with Iran’s ruler Ali Khamenei (right) and President Ebrahim Raisi in a ceremony

This means that the firebrand cleric, who had been serving as the trustee of the Goharshad Mosque endowment about seven years ago, receives a substantial monthly cut of approximately 100 billion rials (about $200,000), according to Iran International’s investigative journalist Mojtaba Pourmohsen. The average monthly salary of an Iranian is about $150 to $200. 

Another high-profile case is Ayatollah Kazem Nourmofidi, the representative of the Supreme Leader in the northern Golestan province, whose rule over the province’s forest exploitation has always been known among locals. He owns the largest wood businesses in the region and his offspring are involved in at least 20 wood companies. 

Nourmofidi, who is the brother in law of another great ayatollah Mohammad Fazel Langrani, is pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars per month for wood smuggling from the lush forests of northern Iran. 

Ayatollah Kazem Nourmfidi, the representative of the Supreme Leader in the northern Golestan province visiting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (left) at hospital in 2014

Another Friday imam who is taking advantage of his relationship with Khamenei is Zeinolabedin Ghorbani, the former representative of Khamenei in Gilan province. He started a shopping mall project in the city and pre-sold the units upon the inauguration but never delivered them and people who paid found no remedy in courts. 

Ashtari is a member of Edalat Khahan (Justice Seekers), a political group of mainly of young conservatives and university students who are loyal to Khamenei and are also close to former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili who ran against Raisi. In April last year, his revelations sparked the Layette-gate scandal that led to calls for the resignation of Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf and resurfacing of other alleged corruption cases against his family. 

In June, Ashtari's investigations revealed in a series of tweets that a 150-hectare piece of land endowed by a local family in Qazvin including a farm with 1,000 cattle was rented out at a monthly rent of 10m rials (around $20 at current exchange rates) to Mona Chaychian, the daughter-in-law of the head of the State Endowment Organization Mehdi Khamoushi, another Khamenei appointee. 

In a public meeting with a group of his representatives last year, Khamenei referred to economic corruption by top clerics as "economic activity" and advised his Friday imams to refrain from engaging in such matters due to their lack of expertise in the field. 

Masih Mohajeri, another hardliner activist and politician, said in a strongly-worded article that, "People refuse to accept that in a country with such wealth and resources, a few individuals amass fortunes while millions of families are in poverty. This is not the right of the people who live in a wealthy country."

"Those who claim to have established justice in the Islamic Republic system should address these inequalities by sidelining those close to power who seize public assets and consider themselves righteous and superior to others,” he added. "Do not assume that the patience of the people is endless. Beware of the day when the army of the hungry rise against you."

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