A BUNCH of Turbaned Thieves ! These are the words of Abbas Palizdar one of the auditors in the Iranian state Auditor’s office. In a speech last week Mr. Palizdar accused the Iranian Mullahs of ripping the country off blind and storing their Mullah “Moolah” in other countries. This is not your typical battle between a state comptroller and government officials. Abbas works for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This is seen as an attempt by the madman to show the Mullah’s who is boss. As for Abbas Palizdar, he was arrested by the secret police on orders of supreme leader, head cleric and all around creepy bad guy, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Looks like there might be a bit of an internal struggle going on. More below:
June 13, 2008 —
‘A BUNCH of turbaned thieves”: So a member of the Iranian General Audit Office described leading Islamic Republic figures in a speech two weeks ago. On Wednesday, that official, Abbas Palizdar, was arrested by the secret police, ostensibly on orders from “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei.
Speaking at a university in Hamadan, west of Tehran, on May 27, and later on June 3, Palizdar claimed that “a mafia-style group of mullahs” is “plundering the country and sending the proceeds to foreign banks.” He also said that the same “mafia” had assassinated two prominent officials who had stood in its way.
That the mullahs are filling their pockets hasn’t been a secret for more than two decades. Iranians know which businesses are controlled by the turbaned heads and their “front men.” What’s new is that a senior official actually named names.
Palizdar claimed that former President Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani controls more than 300 businesses, making him the richest man in Iran. A small building contractor before the mullahs seized power, Rafsanjani has built an empire on government contracts that’s now estimated to be worth several billion dollars.
Palizdar denounced many others:
* Ayatollah Muhammad Imami-Kashani, Tehran’s Friday-prayer leader, and Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Nateq-Nuri, a former speaker of the Islamic parliament – who he called “leeches sucking the blood of our nation.”
* Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, a pro-regime mullah from Qom, known to Iranians as “Sugar Ayatollah.” Since 1995, he has controlled sugar imports through his son-in-law, Muhammad Moddallal.
* Ayatollah Muhammad Yazdi, a former chief justice, who holds agency rights for several German and French firms and is a silent partner in more than 100 businesses, some with offices in Europe.
* Ayatollah Ali Fallahian, a former minister for security and intelligence, who is wanted by the Criminal Court in Berlin for his alleged involvement in the 1992 assassination of Iranian dissidents there. Palizdar said Fallahian won “juicy government contracts” in exchange for a promise “not to spill the beans.”
* Ayatollah Abbas Va’ez-Tabassi, who heads the Imam Reza Foundation, Iran’s largest business conglomerate.
* Ayatollah Alam al-Huda – who Palizdar called the head of “a ring of corruption and money laundering” that includes hundreds of lesser-known clerics.
* Chief Justice Muhammad Hashemi-Shahroudi, a mullah of Iraqi origin – who Palizdar said had turned the Islamic Supreme Court into “the nerve center of corruption.”
Palizdar charged that the mullahs are involved in smuggling, money laundering, bribery and influence peddling. Their business interests include airlines, transportation, hotels, mines, petrochemicals and arms factories. Rafsanjani reportedly holds a monopoly on trade with China while Vaez-Tabassi controls trade with Central Asia.
Palizdar’s potentially most serious charge concerns the 2002 deaths of Gen. Ahmad Kazemi, a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the minister of transport, Ahmad Dadman. The air crash that killed them, he said, may not have been accidental: “They had closed two airports used by mullahs to smuggle goods without paying customs duty.”
When Palizdar first made his allegations two weeks ago, Tehran circles assumed he was acting for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who came to power promising to “clean the stables.”
Ahmadinejad promised in an April speech to expose “a mafia-style organization” that he said dominates the nation’s economy. And Palizdar had been a member of Tehran Mayor Ahmadinejad’s faction in 2005.
“Ahmadinejad makes no allowance for anyone in combating financial corruption,” Palizdar said in Hamadan. “The government is on its own in its fight against corruption, and nobody is supporting the government.”
But as Palizdar was being sent to jail this week, Ahmadinejad’s faction seemed anxious to disown him. “Palizdar has attacked and accused some clerics and simultaneously supported the government’s anti-corruption campaign to put clerics and respectable figures at odds with the government,” the pro-Ahmadinejad daily “Iran” editorialized.
The hardline daily Kayhan, controlled by the “supreme guide,” went even further: “Palizdar was chosen by counterrevolutionaries as the right vehicle for propaganda,” it said.
Clearly, the stage is being set for a new power struggle. Ahmadinejad is out to frighten his opponents by threatening to expose their corruption. The Revolutionary Guard is trying to force the mullahs to give it a bigger share of lucrative businesses. And Ahmadinejad’s opponents want to clip his wings in case they have to make a deal with the Western powers.
A fine mess it is, this Islamic Republic.
Amir Taheri’s new book, “The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution” (Encounter), is due out this fall.