- Minister says Babak Zanjani must cooperate to escape sentence
- Zanjani convicted of embezzling $2.7 billion during oil deals
The death sentence of Iranian billionaire Babak Zanjani can be commuted if he cooperates by returning the money he was convicted of embezzling, Justice Minister Mostafa Pour Mohammadi said.
“Whenever we see the money back in our bank account, we will say that he has cooperated,” Pour Mohammadi said, according to a report Tuesday by the Iranian Students News Agency. “So far, we haven’t seen him cooperate.”
An Iran court sentenced Zanjani to death on Sunday after finding him guilty in an oil fraud case. Zanjani was convicted of embezzling $2.7 billion from the state-run National Iranian Oil Co. during transactions intended to circumvent international sanctions on crude exports, according to state media.
Zanjani was cited by his lawyer as saying after hearing the ruling that his sole aim was to “serve the political establishment,” according to state-run Tasnim news agency. Lawyer Rasoul Kouhpayezadeh said he will appeal the death sentence.
The embezzlement occurred during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, around the time when international sanctions against Iran peaked in 2012. Zanjani, who previously operated as an informal dealer at the oil ministry, was arrested in December 2013 after the election of President Hassan Rouhani and brought to trial last year.
Rouhani said it was imperative for Iran to eradicate corruption if it is to compete internationally in the post-sanctions era.
“What people want to know is, who gave him the permission to sell oil and where did all the money go?” Rouhani said in a meeting on Monday, according to the Aftab news website. “If we find a corrupt person, we need to identify the roots and dry them up because we can not have economic revival in a society where corruption is present.”