An Iranian court has issued a death sentence against an Iranian oil tycoon, a judiciary spokesman told reporters Sunday, in a case widely portrayed as a symbol of corruption during the administration of former President
Babak Zanjani, 41, one of Iran's wealthiest businessmen, was sentenced to death along with two other defendants, a judiciary spokesman told the state media here.
Zanjani, with a reported estimated net worth of $14 billion, had previously been blacklisted by both the United States and the
In 2013, the U.S. Treasury Dept. accused Zanjani of being involved in a multibillion dollar scheme to launder cash in a sanctions-busting maneuver. Those allegations came before last year's deal between Iran and world powers that ended most nuclear-related sanctions in exchange for constraints on Tehran’s
But Zanjani also faced domestic charges. Iranian authorities arrested the businessman in December 2013 and charged him with misappropriation of some $2 billion from Iran's Ministry of Petroleum. Zanjani was accused of skimming oil profits.
Authorities said the death sentence could be reversed if Zanjani repays the pilfered proceeds. Zanjani's lawyer has protested that a bank has refused to accept Zanjani's offer of payments, according to reports here.
Zanjani has 20 days to appeal the sentence, authorities said.
Authorities here have prosecuted other instances of corruption, but death sentences in such cases are relatively rare.
The severity of the punishment suggests that the case is viewed in part as a warning to other entrepreneurs as Iran's economy opens up in the post-sanctions era. Many investors here are anticipating a bonanza as international funds pour into the country.
Twenty years ago, in 1996, Fazel Khodadad, a prominent businessman, was hanged after being convicted in a $400-million embezzlement scheme linked to a state-owned bank. That appeared to be the last death sentence issued in a corruption case.
The administration of Iranian President