An Iranian businessman, Amir-Mansour Aria, has been accused of defrauding the world’s second largest Shariah-compliant bank out of $2.6 billion.
SFW readers may recall us mentioning the bank, Bank Saderat, from time to time:
Bank Saderat is second only to Iran’s Bank Melli on the list of largest Shariah-compliant financial institutions in the world.
Iranian officials claim the suspected fraud involved the use of forged documents to obtain credit at Bank Saderat to purchase assets that included state-owned companies like the Khuzestan Steel Company, a major steel producer. Bank Saderat itself is largely state-controlled.
An economic analyst based in Tehran, Saeed Leilaz, said in an interview quoted in the New York Times that the scheme supposedly involved “privatization using government money.”
The case “indicates a wide corruption within a wide network,” Mr. Leilaz said.
Some bank employees were involved in the fraud. Given the bank’s ties to the government, it is entirely possible that government officials were involved.
Media reports said that the fraud was suspected to have begun in 2007, but that the activity increased significantly over the last few months. Last week, Mohammad Jahromi, the chief executive of Bank Saderat, revealed that the bank had uncovered improprieties early last month and that it had informed security and judicial authorities.
Mr. Aria’s business empire includes more than 35 companies, including a mineral water company, a soccer team and meat imports from Brazil.
The hardline newspaper, Kayhan, which often reflects the views of Iran’s ruling clerics, reported that Mr. Aria had ties to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s top ally, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. Conservatives have accused Mr. Mashaei and others of trying to challenge the authority of Iran’s theocracy. Dozens of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s allies have been arrested in crackdowns that have effectively blocked the political future for Mr. Mashaei, who was seen as a possible successor to Mr. Ahmadinejad in 2013.
This is yet another example that demonstrates that there is nothing especially “ethical” about Shariah-compliance, despite claims to the contrary from proponents of the financial jihad.