London, 06 Apr – Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the richest autocrat Iran has ever had and yet he preaches about how his starving citizens need to be less greedy. Political scientist Dr. Majid Rafizadeh believes it’s time to impose sanctions on the Khamenei himself.
Khamenei is worth at least $95 billion, making him likely the richest man in the world. Some reports even state that members of Khamenei’s family hold billions of dollars in foreign banks. Most of this money was gained after he became Supreme Leader in 1989, through a series of shadowy deals, no oversight, and, of course, some dipping into the public purse.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh wrote on Arab News: “Little attention has been paid to the nuances of Khamenei’s wealth and how he has accumulated it. This is probably due to several reasons, including Khamenei’s strategy of preventing state-owned media outlets from truly covering stories on his organizations and assets. Another factor relates to how his organizations operate in the shadow of secrecy and through third parties or front companies.”
Yes, Khamenei presents himself as “a man of God”, which is how he deflects any unwanted attention. If there is any speculation of wrongdoing, he will claim that a godly man would not do such a thing. If there is proof, he will claim that he was doing as God wished.
At any rate, Khamenei doesn’t want people looking to closely at his financial dealings, so let’s take a closer look.
The biggest organization owned by Khamenei is Setad, which is worth $95 billion and covers the corporate field and real estate, but yet it’s never spoken of. Why? Well, it’s likely to do with how Khamenei obtained that money and why he would want that kept secret.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh wrote: “[Most of his real estate holdings come from] the systematic seizure of thousands of properties belonging to ordinary Iranians, mostly from dissidents and foreign expatriates. Setad enjoys the advantage of monopolizing economic sectors, exploiting the nation’s wealth and bending the law in order to maximize its profits.”
This veil of secrecy around Khamenei’s wealth means that he can skirt responsibility and not face uprisings from the people based on the clear economic injustice.
The wealth itself gives Khamenei untold leverage over the people of his country and the institutions that he leads. You can buy a lot of people with $95 billion.
Mohammad Mokhber, the president of Setad, was once sanctioned by the EU and the US for involvement in “nuclear or ballistic missile activities” and its front companies, but these were lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal.
Lifting these sanctions and other has made it easier for the Iran to acquire more illicit wealth to fund terrorist militias and destabilise the Middle East.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh wrote: “The EU and the US ought to reconsider restricting Khamenei’s illicit routes for accumulating wealth. One measure would be to reimpose the sanctions on Setad due to its illegal activities.”
He also advised that the international community supports the Iranian people and refrain from doing business with Setad or its front companies.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh wrote: “Finally, Khamenei and his family’s assets in foreign banks ought to be frozen. These methods can lay the first steps in promoting stability and justice in the region, as well as curbing Khamenei’s power and his relentless pursuit of regional hegemony.”