Principles Before Elections Are More Principles than They Usually Are
A group of Iranian conservatives, who call themselves principlists, have woken up amid parliamentary campaigns to a corrupt mafia, with Hassan Rouhani’s administration as the main suspect.
Nasim News Agency has launched a series of whistle-blowing articles on a so-called post-JCPOA coordination room that supposedly masterminds clandestine contracts with President Hassan Rouhani’s administration. An international group belonging to the Hinduja brothers, based in London, has allegedly ‘resumed’ its economic and political ties with the Iranian administration after the implementation of the JCPOA. According to Nasim, the group has had extensive relations with the Pahlavi regime, the house of Saud and Zionist lobbies.
Iranian history scholar, Abdollah Shahbazi, has told Nasim the family-owned business is influential in high places in India, including prime ministers and the cabinet. “With the extensive lobby they have launched in Britain, they are also imposing influence on appointments and dismissals at executive or even ministerial levels,” he said.
The article offers a brief history of the group and then moves on to its official entry in Iran. The family started business ties with Iran in 1919, exporting tea, spice and textiles in return for carpets and dried fruit.
However, Shahbazi says the real presence of the family in Iran did not see the light of day until four decades later, when Sangam (1964) premiered in Iran in the sixties. “People in Iran lined up to watch the movie.” According to Nasim, the family then heavily invested in the Iranian film industry by either dubbing and screening Indian films or buying movie theaters and accumulated a large fortune. Their ‘special’ ties with some officials and politicians including Shapoor Reporter, a British intelligence agent in Iran, and Khodadad Mirza Farman Farmaian, the then governor of the Central Bank of Iran, helped them rise above theater-owning and seriously get involved in imports and exports. They also obtained Iranian citizenship. During the economic boom, caused by crude oil sales in the 60s and 70s, which led to extensive imports in Iran, Hinduja found a more important role in many lucrative deals and profitable industries including the country’s power industry.
What happened after the Islamic Revolution? “The family preserved its dealership network after the Pahlavi era well into Iranian post-revolution administrations and became an intermediary for the return of oil giants like Total and Shell,” Shahbazi told Nasim. The article goes on with a seemingly misguided quote from the Sunday Times. “After the revolution, the Hinduja brothers intermediated to return the lost assets of American airlines and in doing so, they went so far as to contact the [then] influential Parliament speaker, Hashemi Rafsanjani, enabling them to return the assets to their American owners after they received their dealership commission,” translates the quote. The piece goes on with a quote from Hashemi Rafsanjani’s memoir dated August 11, 1990: “They said Hinduja has informed us that the US and the UK have decided to remove Saddam [Hussein] and agreed on his successor. They have proposed establishment of Iran-UK ties in near future but asked the release of (Roger) Cooper in advance,” the quote from Rafsanjani’s memoir reads.
Then, midway through 1999, a large but mysterious delegation of big economic and business groups visits Iran amid a media blackout. “Robert Graham, one of the organizers of the visit, told AFP the mission was the most important of its kind after the Islamic Revolution,” said Shahbazi, referring to his research on the greatest Zionist cartels and lobbies in the world. Shahbazi quotes AFP naming Barclays, Marconi, British-Borneo Exploration, and Royal Dutch Shell among the top members of the delegation. Kleinwort Benson, a prominent company ‘affiliated with MI6’, had coordinated the visit, adds Shahbazi. “I was surprised to find this is the same network I know quite well; the same mafia whose main dealer and agent in Iran, during the reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was Sir Shapoor Reporter and had come to be known as the main Zionist economic and financial hotspot in the world,” Shahbazi says. The article explicitly links the Hindujas with the administrations under Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. It notes a $600m deal between Iran in 2004, in which a consortium led by Ashok Leyland Project Services inked a memorandum of understanding with Iran’s Ports and Shipping Organization to develop the Port of Chabahar on a BOOT (built, own, operate and transfer) basis. The family’s influence in Iran declined though never ended during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s eight-year tenure as the country’s president, according to the article. In Nasim’s account of the story, as the 2013 presidential election paved the way for reform-oriented economic and foreign policy officials to return to top executive jobs, the Hinduja group and its subsidiaries also came back under the spotlight in Iranian media. “So much so, that in the course of the nuclear talks, the names of the giant international dealers’ ‘Iranian friends’ and figures associated with them were frequently heard in various diplomatic circles from Geneva to Vienna and London,” reads the final lines of the to-be-continued piece. A slightly edited version of the article appeared as the cover story of Vatan Emrouz, on Tuesday.
A punctual whistleblower named Zakani
A day later on Tuesday, Alireza Zakani, a Tehran representative in the parliament, also accused several administration officials of corruption. The principlist MP spoke of an unprecedented ‘mafia of wealth and power’ that has ‘contaminated’ a part of the administration and is threatening the country. The network inside the administration has established relations with foreign countries and is ‘selling off’ the country, he said at a presser held to uncover a ‘network of economic corruption’, on Monday, less than ten days before the upcoming twin polls in Iran. “The president should look for corruption in his brother, his office, Mr. Hosseini in the Petroleum Ministry and Mr. Zangeneh’s contracts,” he said. He went so far as to implicate the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Communications, and Social Welfare in the alleged corruptions.
Speaking in the press conference dubbed “Report of a Catastrophe”, he threatened the administration, saying he would publish some ‘inappropriate documents’ as soon as the Rouhani administration dismisses his claims. He also directly urged Mr. Rouhani, ‘who insists on fighting corruption’, to say what his brother, Hossein Fereydoun, is doing in the country. Not surprisingly, his remarks have provided for headlines and front pages in conservative Vatan Emrouz’s front page today.
Remarks made by the First Vice President, Eshaq Jahangiri, have also come heavily under fire from the principlist camp. On Tuesday, prominent MP Ahmad Tavakkoli tried to name and shame the Vice President for the administration’s economic output, in a ping-pong of attacks in response to Jahangiri’s recent blame game. Jahangiri had said earlier this week that ‘those who have made Babak Zanjani should be ashamed’ for the present economic situation in Iran. The comments were more harshly responded by Kayhan here in Tehran on Wednesday. Using Jahangiri’s remarks as its headline, the far right newspaper is featuring, on its front-page, two separate photos of Hassan Rouhani and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, both greeting Babak Zanjani, who is now facing record-breaking corruption charges, in ceremonies apparently held to honor his entrepreneurship efforts. Another story that have made to Kayhan’s front page is a report from Zakani’s presser, printed below a seriously-taken translation of a satirical piece by the Mideast Beast, saying democrat US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will let Israel kill 200,000 people in Gaza.
Whether the principlists’ art of whistle-blowing amplified through strong media dominance could boost their chances or backfire is a question to be answered after the parliamentary election.