Nearly a week after a leaked audio file of a conversation between two senior Revolutionary Guards commanders in 2018 made damning revelations about financial corruption at the highest levels of power in Iran, the regime was inevitably forced to confirm its authenticity.
Initially, regime officials and media tried to question the audio file, claiming that it was faked or doctored. After it became evident beyond the shadow of a doubt that the file was real, the regime’s media shifted its tone and tried to claim that the audio file was not new and had previously been published. Keyhan, the mouthpiece of regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei, claimed on February 14 that the file proved “the level of responsibility and accountability of Revolutionary Guards’ officials.”
Even though corruption among high-ranking officials is among the regime’s worst-kept secrets, the new information is surprising and sheds light on aspects of state-run corruption and embezzlement that dwarf the previously known facts.
An expert who spoke to the state-run Sharq daily on February 13 said, “If we calculate the value of the assets of [Tehran] municipality, which was fully put at the disposal of Rasatejarat company [a subsidiary of the IRGC-run Yas Holding], based on the dollar exchange rate at the time, it would be worth $2 trillion.”
This proves that the Tehran municipality—as well as other municipal organs—have become the hunting ground of the IRGC and its authorities. In Iran, civil service in the municipality is an opportunity to embezzle millions of dollars. This explains why millions of impoverished people are being pushed out of Tehran to live in slums while 2.5 million houses remain empty in the city.
Some of the notable facts mentioned in the audio file are as follows:
- In early 2018, Rasatejarat had 1.8 trillion rials in unclaimed debts, but it later became clear that it had a 60 trillion rial debt to the municipality.
- Some documents show that 129 trillion rials out of the Tehran municipality’s financial resources were handed over to the IRGC, of which 32 trillion rials were spent and 97 trillion were embezzled to unknown sources.
What is more surprising is that this significant scandal has been dismissed by regime officials as being normal. There is no indication of judicial investigation, not even a suggestion of a probe. The only worries expressed by officials and media are the security aspects of the audio file and how such information was leaked.
More outrageously, Hossein Shariatmadari, the managing editor of Keyhan, tried to sugarcoat the facts revealed in the audio file, writing, “The IRGC Quds Force was supposed to have a share from the revenue of [Rasatejarat]. What is wrong with these revelations? Qassem Soleimani was receiving a share [of the revenue] for the Quds force, and what did he spend it on?”
This further proves that even in state corruption, Iran’s regime is unique and unrivaled. In other countries, when corruption and embezzlement cases among state authorities are revealed, it results in political upheaval and usually results in a total reshuffling of cabinets and government bodies. But in Iran, corruption runs like blood in the veins of every regime organ. In other words, corruption is the dynamic drive of the regime and helps it maintain its equilibrium.
But the regime’s nonchalant reaction to these extraordinary corruption and embezzlement cases is not an indication of stability and strength. Just as corruption eats any living organ from inside, it has weakened the regime to the point that it can no longer fight the infection and has surrendered to its infestation. Meanwhile, to millions of Iranians who have been the prime victims of state corruption, every new revelation fuels the fire of protests to overthrow the regime.