A court in Iran has sentenced four people to death and handed down lengthy prison sentences to 35 others in connection with the country's biggest-ever bank fraud scandal, local media reported Monday.
While two of the defendants in the $2.6 billion bank fraud case received life sentences, thirty-three others were awarded prison terms of up to 25 years.
The official IRNA news agency identified the main defendant only as "Amir Mansour Aria." Nevertheless, further details of the case, including the identities of the other defendants, were not disclosed.
The case, involving some of the country's largest financial institutions, was brought to court in February, months after the scandal came to light last September.
The main charges pressed against the defendants included using forged documents to get credit from at least seven Iranian banks over a period of four years to purchase assets, including major state-owned companies under the government's privatization scheme.
The scandal sparked a bitter power struggle between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his political rivals as well as hard-line clerics who have been criticizing the president despite playing an important role in returning him to power for a second time in the disputed 2009 presidential elections, which was dubbed a sham by his political opponents.
Although Ahmadinejad has denied allegations that his government was involved in the scandal, it is expected to have an adverse effect on his political allies in the 2013 presidential elections. Incidentally, Ahmadinejad is prevented by the country's constitution from seeking a third term in office.
The recent political developments in Iran apparently reflects the growing rift between Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The power struggle between the two principal leaders has seen many lawmakers and politicians, who were earlier allied to the Iranian President, abandon Ahmadinejad in recent months and pledge their allegiance to Khamenei.
Notably, Iran's economy, which is dependent on oil and gas revenues, has been hit hard by years of UN sanctions prompted by the country's disputed nuclear program and its refusal to address international concerns over the issue.
Although Iran insists that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful civilian purposes, the West suspects it just a cover up for the Islamic country's nuclear weapon ambitions. Iran has already survived four sets of sanctions by the UN Security Council over its refusal to halt an uranium enrichment program.
by RTT Staff Writer
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