Scandal unfolds as Ayatollah aide arrested for corruption
A senior Iranian cleric has tried to distance himself from a major corruption case because the man arrested in the act for receiving a large euro bribe is his relative.
Iranian analyst Ehsan Mehrabi told Iran International TV that the suspect, a chief inspector in the office of Roads and Housing Minister Rostam Ghasemi, could not have received the bribe if he did not. had not used his link with the extremist Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi.
Qasem Makarem Shirazi, a grandson of the Ayatollah’s brother was first nominated as a candidate for the post of Deputy Minister of Roads and Housing, but the intelligence services in Iran rejected his nomination. Nevertheless, the minister appointed him adviser and chief inspector, a position that does not need clearance from intelligence authorities, according to reports from Tehran.
A statement released by Makarem Shirazi’s office made it clear that the man was not his son or grandson, but refrained from saying he was related to him in any way. The statement added that the bribe had no business connection with the Ayatollah’s office and was never supported by that office in Qom.
Earlier, Vice President Mohammad Hosseini confirmed that a senior Ministry of Roads and Housing official had been arrested but did not name anyone. The ministry later named the man and a lawmaker, Ardeshir Motahari, revealed that the detainee was arrested while receiving a bribe in euros.
Rostam Ghasemi, Minister of Roads and Urban Development
Motahari wrote in several tweets that the minister should be summoned to parliament and asked about the case, but he was pretending to be sick. Photos of Ghasemi appeared in the media on a hospital bed as government spokesman Ali Bahadori visited him. The ministry said Ghasemi suffered from back pain.
Meanwhile, Khabar online reported that the minister appeared in public during a meeting with Vice President Mohammad Mokhber on Saturday afternoon, just days after what he described as a spinal operation.
Khabar Online wrote that public opinion is waiting for an explanation from the minister. The website also said the revelation of the bribe raised expectations that Ghasemi, who was already in the crosshairs of parliament, would be fired.
Since President Ebrahim Raisi took office in August 2021, Iran’s economic situation has further deteriorated with an inflation rate close to 50% and a declining currency. As US sanctions continue in the absence of a nuclear deal, Raisi has been unable to deliver on his campaign promises, such as building a million homes a year.
This led to early pressure in parliament to remove some of its economy ministers, with Ghasemi being the primary target. So far, the higher authorities have prevented this from happening, but the corruption scandal may be the last straw to break the camel’s back.
Khabar Online said President Raisi is likely to take advantage of the case and sack his minister to prove he has no red lines in his much-heralded campaign against corruption.In a report published on Sunday, the Rouydad24 website said that Ghasem Makarem Shirazi was a candidate for Shiraz parliament in 2020 but did not win. He joined the ministry after Rostam Ghasemi, also from Fars province, became Minister of Roads and Construction.
Since taking office in August 2021, the The Raisi administration is under fire from critics by detractors and even supporters of nepotism which led to appointing unqualified people.