Iranian official reveals claims of corruption at highest levels

Accusations of corruption have led to speculation that a former Iranian official under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration may seek the presidency.

al-monitor Iranian Energy Minister Parviz Fattah (C) sits between his Lebanese counterpart, Mohammed Fneish (R), and Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Massoud Edri, on Feb. 24, 2006. Photo by HASSAN AL-JARRAH/AFP via Getty Images.

Aug 13, 2020

Parviz Fattah, an official under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration (2005-13), gave an interview to Iranian state TV on Aug. 1 that continues to rock Iranian media, even leading to speculation of a run for the presidency.

A former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) member who served as Ahmadinejad’s energy minister and as head of the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation for four years, Fattah has since 2019 been head of the Mostazafan Foundation, a charitable organization that is often described as the second wealthiest institution in Iran next to the Oil Ministry. In his time at the foundation, he has already become a household name.

What has made Fattah the headlines of several newspapers and the top story on several websites is not his past job experiences but his very frank conversations about the one thing that remains on every Iranian’s mind: corruption. During the television interview, the soft-spoken and mild-mannered Fattah called out corruption at some of the top institutions in the Islamic Republic. What lends his accusations credibility is that he avoids the theatrics and limelight of the president he worked under for four years as energy minister.

The Mostazafan Foundation was created after the revolution to confiscate the belongings and property of former officials from the Mohammad Reza Pahlavi era. In the decades since, the foundation has continued to grow, now owning factories, businesses, construction firms and dozens of companies, many through confiscations of properties. The purpose of the foundation is to redistribute confiscated wealth to the needy and poor. "Mostazafan" means "the oppressed" in Persian, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei chooses the head of the foundation.

What has made Fattah’s criticism of corruption interesting is that he has criticized those close to Khamenei and other institutions that he runs. One such person is Haddad Adel, who is the father-in-law of Khamenei’s son, the influential Mojtaba who many suspect of having deep influence behind the scenes. Adel, a former chairman of parliament and presidential candidate, was accused of sitting on 8,000 square meters of land in Tehran that belong to the Mostazafan Foundation.

Fattah revealed other assets of the foundation that other organizations and institutions are holding on to. Former President Ahmadinejad’s office is reportedly in an exclusive part of northern Tehran. A parliamentary organization has a building also in an exclusive part of Tehran. Fattah said that both the IRGC and the Iranian navy are holding on to property owned by Mostazafan.

The interview continues to make waves in Iranian media because very rarely will a top official, chosen by the supreme leader, criticize other individuals or organizations that operate under the supreme leader. Typically when such things are done, it is to settle intra-party or partisan scores. However, that a conservative figure like Fattah claimed corruption against other conservatives has caught many by surprise. And Iranian media outlets, despite quoting him as saying that he has no political ambition and he only wishes to serve his job as head of the foundation, continue to speculate about whether the interview suggests he has political ambitions for the 2021 presidential election.

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