By Pooya Stone
The Iranian Ministry of Health has been pushed into the spotlight recently because of the coronavirus’ rapid spread in the country, coupled with a severe shortage of drugs and medical equipment.
Mullahs’ President Hassan Rouhani blamed the lack of supplies on US sanctions, but these sanctions have exemptions for humanitarian aid, and Iran rejected aid from the US and expelled Doctors Without Borders.
The US Department of State accused the Iranian government of corruption, citing regime officials’ statements about the disappearance of €1.3 billion designated for medical supplies while Ghazizadeh was the Health Minister.
Ghazizadeh resigned in December 2018 following calls to impeach him for several matters including corruption.
In November 2019, current Health Minister Saied Namaki said that no one is clear who took the money or what it was spent on, but others say that the Ministry’s Food and Drug Administration is the corrupt body.
The IFDA is supposed to buy medicine, powdered milk, and medical supplies and equipment, so the money allocated to them is not subject to US sanctions, which is why the mullahs funnel money through them.
When Namaki took charge of the Health Ministry in February 2019, he appointed Mehdi Pir Salehi as the IFDA head. Pir Salehi is also on the board of directors of pharmaceutical company Alborz Daroo. Alborz Daroo is affiliated with Barekat Holding, a subsidiary of the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (Setad), which is owned by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
The corruption becomes clearer when you look at the members of the Barekat board of directors.
- Chairman Hamid Reza Jamshidi was made an advisor to the Minister of Health in May 2019 and Secretary of the Coronavirus National Management Headquarters in March 2020
- Deputy Chairman Nasrollah Fathian, a Revolutionary Guards Brigadier General, is an advisor to the Minister of Health and coordinator of the Coronavirus National Management Headquarters
- CEO Dr. Akbar Barandegi is the Director-General of Medication and Drug Supervision of the IFDA
It is difficult to separate the Health Ministry from Khamenei’s multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical corporations. How can the drug purchasing consultant head a pharma group and not have it be a conflict of interest?
It is well known that Khamenei has a net worth of between $95 billion (estimated by Reuters in 2013) and $200 billion (estimated by the US embassy in Baghdad in 2019); most of which comes from Setad and is stolen from the people.
Iran New Wire wrote: “The corruption in the rich middle eastern country stems from the very top of the regime, allowing Iran’s Supreme Leader control over four-fifths of the country’s wealth.”