By Dipo Awojobi – Following a long trial in which he was accused of fraudulently pocketing $2.8 billion, Iran’s billionaire tycoon Babak Zanjani has been sentenced to death, a judicial official said today March 6. The 41-year-old who is worth $13.5 billion and holds a Danish citizenship was convicted of fraud and economic crimes.
Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie said at the press conference that apart from the death sentence, Zanjani must repay money to the state.
Zanjani became notorious during the era of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, finding ways to channel hard currency from oil sales to Tehran despite financial sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic’s banks as punishment for its nuclear programme.
The trial was held in public, a rarity for such a major case in Iran, and two other accused were also convicted of “corruption on earth”, the most serious offence under the country’s criminal code, meaning they too will face the death penalty.
“The preliminary court has sentenced these three defendants to be executed, as well as paying restitution to the plaintiff,” Mohseni-Ejeie said, adding that that was the oil ministry.
They must also pay a “fine equal to one fourth of the money that was laundered”, the spokesman said, without specifying the sum.
Zanjani, who can appeal, had denied any wrongdoing, insisting that the only reason the money had not been paid to the oil ministry was that sanctions had prevented a planned transfer from taking place.
However, the case follows repeated declarations from the current government of President Hassan Rouhani that corruption and the payment of illegal commissions thrived under Ahmadinejad’s rule.
Zanjani had repeatedly said in media interviews that in return for commissions paid by Ahmadinejad’s government he was tasked with circumventing sanctions to get money back to Iran.