Iran's supreme court upholds tycoon's death sentence for graft

Iran's supreme court upholds tycoon's death sentence for graft

DUBAI – Reuters
Irans supreme court upholds tycoons death sentence for graft

Iranian businessman Babek Zanjani is seen in this file photo. / DHA Photo

Iran's supreme court has upheld the death penalty against Iranian businessman Babek Zanjani for corruption, the judiciary said on Dec. 3, a sentence critics say will mask the identity of senior officials who supported him. 

By his own account, Zanjani had for years helped circumvent sanctions by arranging billions of dollars of oil deals through a network of companies stretching from Turkey to Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. 

Prosecutors accused Zanjani of owing the government more than $2.7 billion for oil sold on behalf of the oil ministry. He was sentenced in March. 

Critics of the sentence, including President Hassan Rouhani, said Zanjani's execution might make it impossible to recover the funds and uncover the identity of officials who supported him. 

Judiciary deputy head Gholamreza Ansari, quoted by the body's official news website Mizan, said the court affirmed the death sentence against Zanjani, while death sentences against two co-defendants were revoked. 

Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-born Turkish businessman who was arrested in Miami on March 21, holds the vast majority of Zanjani’s fortune, according to documents held by Iran, Iranian MP Amir Abbas Soltani had stated in April, one month after the death sentence was given for Zanjani.

Zarrab was a key figure in a large 2013 graft probe in Turkey that also involved four cabinet ministers but the case was dropped and Zarrab was released after 70 days in jail.

Iran emerged from years of economic isolation in January when world powers led by the United States and the European Union lifted crippling sanctions against Tehran in return for curbs on Iran's nuclear ambitions.