Iran’s intelligence ministry arrests members of illegal forex trading group

Iran’s intelligence ministry has issued a statement saying it has dismantled a major illegal foreign currency trading group amid efforts in the country to control an exchange market where prices have fluctuated in recent months mainly over speculations about the future of Iran-US relations.

“Leading members of the extensive network of scam and disruption of the exchange system who had been involved in illegal economic activity have been identified and arrested in the province of Yazd,” said the statement which referred to a province in central Iran.

The statement said the group had used cover companies outside Iran to obtain 150 million euros of import funds from the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) to then resell the hard currency in the unofficial market at prices several times higher than the government-mandated rates.

It said the group had faked documents and paperwork related to commerce licenses while using third-party bank accounts and faking transportation documents to launder nearly 10 trillion rials ($40 million).

The statement said the suspects had bank accounts with a balance of nearly 300 trillion rials ($1.2 billion), adding that a raid on their properties led to the recovery of a considerable amount of hard currency notes, fake documents and stamps of foreign companies.

The arrests are part of wider efforts by the Iranian security agencies in recent months to restore calm to the Iranian exchange market.

The Iranian currency rial regained part of its lost value against the US dollar in early November after the results of the US presidential elections became known.

The rial closed at 255,000 against the greenback on Sunday. However, a CBI-mandated price of 42,000 rials per dollar, used to finance basic goods imports, is increasingly used for rent-seeking as speculators believe the price gap would further narrow next year over hopes than a new government in the US might decide to changes its economic policy toward Iran.