Iranian media and observers say the detention of journalists at a liberal-leaning media office might be linked to a recent revelation about Iran's international clandestine fund transfers.

On Monday evening, security forces raided the offices of Farda-ye Eghtesad, an economic website, and detained 30 journalists, including senior editors, holding them incommunicado inside the building overnight. They also confiscated all office computers and electronic devices including mobile phones and interrogated the staff. Additionally, the arrest of another economic journalist, Mehdi Afsharnik, was announced, apparently connected to the raid on Farda-ye Eghtesad.

The website, launched in August 2023, is owned by a subsidiary of Kian Capital, a private investment firm. The newspaper’s offices along with the company’s headquarters and its subsidiaries, were also raided, all located in the same building.

Journalists and observers in Tehran do not say what kind of links exist between the website and Kian capital on the one hand and the issue of circumventing sanctions on the other. It is assumed that the website at least was somehow involved in revealing the Iranian government’s illicit activities.

Kian Capital’s ties with businessman turned political activist Majid Zamani, who founded Kian Group, are noteworthy. Zamani, who now resides in Britain after leaving Iran during last year’s anti-government protests, founded a political group named Government for Iran, advocating for political dialogue and a transition from the Islamic Republic.The group has explained its principles and goals in a document entitled “Roadmap to a Dream” on the English page of its website.

The judiciary’s official news agency, Mizan, released a statement on Tuesday, asserting that the raid and journalist's arrest were not linked to journalistic activities but were under investigation by a security agency. While some detainees have been released, senior editor Ali Mirzakhani and journalist Behzad Bahmannejad have reportedly been taken to another location by security forces.

Majid Zamani

An economic expert in Tehran, speaking anonymously to Iran International, suggested that the security operations may be in response to a Financial Times report on an Iranian company evading sanctions and the Iranian Navy's seizure of an oil tanker linked to the US in January. The affiliation of Farda-ye Eghtesad with Kian Capital and its founder, Majid Zamani, is considered significant in this context, but no one offers a concrete explanation.

Zamani, an active member of the reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s campaign, was arrested in 2009 for several months during the Green Movement.

Speaking to the reformist Ensaf News Wednesday, the London-based Zamani said that security forces had raided Mabna, a subsidiary of Kian Capital last week, and held all the staff for 24 hours and interrogated them.

According to Zamani, the investigation was related to a video file about sanctions that had been uploaded from one of IP addresses of Mabna on Instagram. He claimed that no evidence had been found during the raid.

Zamani also spoke about more raids on his former companies this week. “They entered the central building of the Kian Group, which is at another location and started inspecting all the [subsidiary] companies for the same reason,” he said and added that the employees had been questioned about having contacts with him.

“[The offices of] Farda-ye Eghtesad are in the same building where other Kian Group companies are. Consequently, [the newspaper office and staff] were searched and interrogated, too,” he told Ensaf News.

Zamani also said he has no knowledge of the video about sanctions that security forces have been questioning the company staff and journalists about.

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