Iranian billionaire may avoid death penalty by repaying $2.8 bln debt: Minister
İpek Yezdani - TEHRAN
A picture made available on March 6, 2016 shows Iran's billionaire tycoon Babak Zanjani (C) in a court, in Tehran. AFP PhotoThe Iranian government has said a death sentence decision for billionaire Babak Zanjani on corruption charges can change if he repays his debt of around $2.8 billion in cash to the state.
“If we see the money back in our bank account, we will say that he has cooperated. So far, we haven’t seen this,” said Iranian Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi, as quoted by Iranian media outlets.
Zanjani, who was allegedly connected to Turkey’s massive 2013 graft case, was sentenced to death for corruption, a judicial official said March 6, after a trial in which he was accused of fraudulently pocketing $2.8 billion.
He became notorious during the era of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for finding ways to channel hard currency to Tehran despite financial sanctions imposed on Iran.
The Islamic court convicted the defendants of “spreading corruption on the Earth,” a capital offence, and ordered them to repay funds embezzled from, among others, the state-run National Iranian Oil Company, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said on live television, as quoted by Agence France-Presse on March 6.
The defendants can appeal against the ruling. Zanjani’s advocate said that they would take the ruling to appeal.