Qalibaf accused of loss of more than $550 million


Former Tehran Mayor and high-profile conservative politician Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf is facing more corruption allegations.

Tehran City Council member Hassan Rabati announced on Tuesday that documents concerning 20 trillion rials of unaccounted expenditures have been delivered to the Tehran City Council.

The amount of questioned spending would have been more than $550 million when Qalibaf was mayor and about $430 million at the current, historically-low exchange rate.

The entire Tehran budget for the 2017-18 was 184.89 trillion rials ($4.01 billion). It will be reduced by about 11 trillion rials in 2018-19.

Rabati said some of the classified documents concern expenses for contractors assigned to implement projects for the city without legal contracts. He said some initiatives were agreed only rally and without a competitive bidding process.

The councillor said a a list of city hall staff accused of violating the law has been presented to the Tehran City Guards Department and Iran’s judiciary: “Now it’s up to the city council to decide the next steps.”

Qalibaf, a former Revolutionary Guards general, was major of Iran’s capital from 2005 to 2017. He unsuccesfully ran for President in 2005 and 2013 and was a candidate in the 2017 election until he withdrew days before the vote in favor of the conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi.

In August 2017, the newly-elected Tehran Mayor, Mohammad Ali Najafi, said a special committee had been formed to investigate an “astronomical property sellout” of State assets to conservative-aligned entities.

Najafi delivered his report to the council on January 14 with a list of claimed violations. These included expenditure of municipal funds on last May’s Presidential elections, the sudden employment of 13,000 new personnel, the arbitrary dispersal of 674 city real estate holdings, and “cheating” in management of an employee savings account.

Tehran’s Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi has called on Najafi to deliver the evidence to support his claims, while judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohsein Ejei dismissed the allegations.

Qalibaf was embroiled in more controversy over a January 2017 fire in Tehran’s iconic Plaxco Tower, in which 20 people died. Allegations of mismanagement and shortages of vital resources were prompted by the inability of fire services to reach the upper floors of the building to extinguish flames.

Earlier this week memories of Plaxco were revived by a large fire at the Energy Ministry in Tehran.

Supreme Leader: Enemies Using All Means to Undermine Us

Responding to recent protests across Iran, the Supreme Leader has warned that enemies are using any means at their disposal, including cyberspace and sanctions, to undermine the Iranian nation’s faith in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Khamenei made the comments to commanders and personnel of Iran’s Air Force and the Khatam al-Anbia Air Defense Base.

Protests in late December and early January over political and economic issues quickly spread to cities throughout the Islamic Republic. Although they have dissipated, factions within the regime are debating how to respond.

On Tuesday, President Hassan Rouhani called on Iran’s armed forces, including the Revolutionary Guards, to give up their economic holdings.

Part of public criticism over economic mismanagement and corruption has focused on the Guards’ large stake in the economy, expanding between 2005 and 2013 through the purchase of significant shares in State entities during the Ahmadinejad Administration’s “privatization”.

Khamenei did allude on Wednesday to economic concerns, saying that was “shortcoming and backwardness” on social justice and the removal of the gap between different walks of life:

People tolerate many problems, but they don’t like corruption and are complaining about discrimination.

These complaints must be seriously pursued by the Government, the Judiciary, and the Parliament.