Iran daily: Arrested Ahmadinejad vice-president reportedly “stole billions”

A Vice-President under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been arrested and detained in Iran, amid reports — and the censorship of a leading newspaper for publishing the claims — that he stole billions of dollars.

Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei said on Monday that Hamid Baghaei, the Vice President for Executive Affairs from 2011 to 2013, has been detained. He gave no further details.

The website of the Tabnak newspaper claimed on Tuesday morning that Baghaei was arrested over the embezzlement of 200 trillion Rials (about $6.6 billion). Within minutes, the article was deleted.

Baghaei rose quickly in the Government under his ally Ahmadinejad, who was President from 2005 to 2013. He was the head of Iran’s Culture and Heritage Organization before Ahmadinejad, in a power play against the Foreign Ministry, appointed him as one of four “special envoys” for international relations in September 2010. A few months later, he was named Vice President.

However, Baghaei was soon surrounded by charges of corruption. In spring 2011, he was barred from any civil service position for 4 years by the administrative justice court, which claimed “numerous violations” during Baghaei’s leadership of the Culture and Heritage Organization.

The Iranian regime was beset by assertions of corruption and mismanagement during the Ahmadinejad years, with the President and his rivals — including the Revolutionary Guards — swapping accusations.

In January, Iran’s Supreme Court sentenced Mohammad Reza Rahimi, Ahmadinejad’s 1st Vice President from 2009 to 2013, to five years in prison and a fine of $300,000 for his involvement in a multi-million-dollar insurance fraud.

A court ordered the dismissal of Ahmadinejad’s close ally Saeed Mortazavi, a former Tehran Prosecutor, as head of the Social Security Funds in 2013; however, the President refused to comply.

Babak Zanjani, a billionaire tycoon, was arrested in December 2013 on charges that he took billions from State funds. He is still awaiting trial.

And in September 2011, a number of officials were swept up in a $2.6 billion bank fraud, although few have faced prosecution amid the defendants who were finally brought to trial.

On Monday, the former President’s office distanced him from the latest scandal. An ally said, “Baghaei was not so close to Ahmadinejad. I have not seen Mr. Baghaei recently.”

Russia Pours Cold Water on $18 Billion Oil-for-Goods Deal

Russia has poured cold water on the long-heralded “oil-for-goods” deal with Iran, knocking back the assertions of Iranian officials that it could begin this week.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Monday, “Our traders if possible will help to find a buyer [for Iranian oil].” However, he continued,
“We ourselves are a producing country. And we aren’t going to import their oil.”

A memorandum of understanding in summer 2014 envisaged that Iran would sell about 500,000 barrels of crude oil per month to Russia and use the money, estimated at $1.5 billion, for purchase of goods. However, Russian officials quickly stepped from a commitment to implementation.

Iranian hopes were revived with the announcement this weekend that Russian grain sales to Tehran had begun. However, Russian officials retreated on Monday, denying the sales and saying, “We are dealing only with phytosanitary security.”

By EA WorldView