Oct 01, 2018

Op-Ed: A Fox Guarding the Henhouse: The Case of Sadegh Larijani Amoli

(by Shima Silavi) Iran is witnessing yet a new wave of public protests. This time, the reason behind the collective anger scan be boiled down to one main issue: corruption.

In fact, beyond outrage at the misuse of public money, Iranians have taken to the streets to protest against the judiciary’s lack of action when tackling corruptions cases.

Behind all speculations that explain this negligence, the current Head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani Amoli, is involved in the greatest corruption case in the history of Islamic Republic of Iran. The massive scandal was discovered by Nasser Seraj, the Head of the The General Inspection Organization of Iran (GIO), in an investigation whose results were confirmed to a three-member committee composed of representatives from (GIO), a representative of the government and a representative of the judiciary. 

Mahmoud Sadeghi, representative of Tehran in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (parliament), confronted Larijani regarding his 63 personal bank accounts with a total of 1,000 billion Tomans, equivalent to $1 billion.

It should be noted all these accounts belonging to the Head of the judiciary had the signature of Larijani alone. Allegedly, the source of these assets accumulated in the accounts were the bails and collaterals that people have deposited for different court cases.

During an interview for Voice of America Farsi Amir Salar Davoodi, a lawyer in Tehran’s Court, stated that “there is a gang of corrupted officials. Even some lawyers are involved. It reaches the point that, for example, if a judge is assigned to another branch, the lawyer will follow him to the new branch, as they work together. Directly and indirectly members of the judiciary ask for their cut from every case.”

Following the disclosure of the scandal’s details, three members of the judiciary and two members of the National Bank were arrested. The Iranian Parliament’s Speaker, Ali Larijani, the brother of Sadegh Larijani, denies any allegations against his sibling.

However, many others – including the Secretary of the Guardian Council Ahmad Jannati – had explicitly criticised the spread of corruption in the judiciary system three years ago.

The Head of the judiciary is directly elected by the Supreme Leader, unlike the executive and legislature, the former being directly elected and the latter indirectly determined by the people.

In reaction to this case, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei defended Larijani stating that "the Head of the judiciary is being targeted by the media and foreign enemies and demoralised at home in order to portray a genuine and rightful person as unjust and ruthless“.

The answer to why Khamenei is a staunch defender of Larijani even in light of heavy criticism from his very supporters in the parliament can be found in favours Larijani has done since he became the Head of judiciary.

Most notable is the case of Khamenei’s favourite Qu’ran reciter, Saeed Toosi, who was acquitted from rape charges.

Despite the abundance of evidence, Sadegh Larijani Amoli was found innocent of financial corruption charges and cleared with no legal prosecution. In such circumstances, the successful prosecution of a mass network of corrupt judges, interrogators, lawyers, experts and those who hold positions in the judiciary seems far-fetched.

It is believed that the corruption within the judiciary, headed by a person who is currently on two sanction lists for human rights violation and is deeply involved in financial corruption himself, could bring the Islamic Republic to its end in the near future.