Iran judiciary to review controversial airline privatization

PressTV – Iran’s judiciary is to review alleged irregularities in the privatization of a major government-run airline after parliament lawmakers claimed the company had been sold at an exorbitantly cheap price three years ago and that nepotism may have been an issue.

The Mehr news agency said in a Thursday report that the judiciary will rule on the case related to the privatization of Iran Airtour, a former subsidiary of Iran’s national carrier Homa, in a major deal in 2015 which critics believe has never paid off.

The report cited a former member of Iran Airtour as saying that buyers of the company have yet to pay back debts worth of $82.5 million for 15 Tupolev airplanes operated by the carrier.

The source said the initial evaluation of the airline’s assets for privatization, equal to several million dollars at the time, was also flawed; saying the company has buildings and offices that are currently worth at least five trillion rials ($40 million).

The source said nepotism may have been involved in the Iran Airtour deal, adding that the current owner of the company is a relative of president of the Privatization Organization of Iran.

The report comes more than a week after a senior lawmaker of the Iranian parliament representing the city of Mashhad, where Iran Airtour has several offices, said the deal to privatize the company should be revisited due to what he described as massive irregularities.

Privatization of major state-run companies in Iran began in 2005 after a decree was issued under Article 44 of the Iranian Constitution.

However, the process has faced growing public and government scrutiny, especially since riots erupted last autumn at the site of a major sugar plant in southwestern Iran where workers demanded delayed pays years after the company had been privatized.

The review of Iran Airtour deal also comes against the backdrop of a sweeping crackdown by the Iranian judiciary on economic corruption in the country.

Nine people have been sentenced to death and dozens of others have received hefty prison terms for misuse of public funds, racketeering, graft or other charges.