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Sunday, 19 February 2012

Iran Court Starts Trial in $2.6 Billion Bank Fraud

Tehran court began hearing the trial of 32 defendants on Saturday in a $2.6 billion bank fraud case described as the biggest financial swindle in the country’s history, state television reported.   Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi, read the text of the indictment against the suspects, who wore prison uniforms at the opening session at the Revolutionary Court, which deals with cases involving security and organized crime. The charges involve the use of forged documents to get credit at one of Iran’s top financial institutions to purchase assets, including state-owned companies. Iran’s judiciary has banned the news media from identifying the defendants by their full names. The primary defendant is referred to in reports by his nickname, Amir Mansour Aria, and he is described in the Iranian news media as the head of a business empire. The state television Web site quoted the indictment as saying the owners of the Aria Investment Development Company used “incorrect connections with executive and political elements” to accrue wealth. “Dozens of instances of bribe payments to staff and managers of banks have taken place under various titles,” it said. The indictment also said that company managers undermined the country’s economic security through fraud and by paying large bribes to illegally accumulate several billion dollars. State television said the top defendant has been charged with being “corrupt on earth,” an Iranian legal term meaning that the defendant is an enemy of God. The charge carries the death penalty. Aria pleaded not guilty, but he acknowledged that he had violated some laws. “Some violations were committed, and all that was on my order,” the state television Web site quoted him as telling the court. “I had no intention of committing treason against the country and the system. If I wanted to do so, I would have taken the money out of the country.” One of the suspects in the case, Mahmoud Reza Khavari, the former head of Bank Melli, now reportedly lives in Canada.

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