By Ehsan Mehrabi
July 27, 2020
On Wednesday, July 22, members of Iranian parliament elected Mehrdad Bazrpash as head of the Supreme Audit Court. The Audit Court is responsible for overseeing all financial processes in the country, and acts as the supervisory arm of parliament.
The selection of Bazrpash for this role, with 158 votes, was met with some dismay by online critics. Bazrpash is a former adviser to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and was also formerly the CEO of Saipa automobile company, vice president of Iran’s National Youth Organization and founder of Vatan-e Emrooz newspaper.
Inside Iran, Bazrpash’s name is also associated with malpractice and possible corruption, from giving himself astronomical payouts to himself to illegally selling land. In this article, IranWire asks: how is it that this individual is now entrusted with overseeing financial good practice in Iran? And how has he risen to this position at the age of 40?
Not What You Know, but Who…?
Bazrpash owes his new position to seeds he sowed at the Student Basij of Sharif University of Technology. Barzpash was elected to head the Supreme Audit Court at the same time as the appointment of Alireza Zakani, another member of the Student Basij and a representative of Qom, as head of the Parliamentary Research Center. Bazrpash is also a skilled tradesman who can negotiate with all the internal factions of the fundamentalist group of MPs.
Objections regarding his lack of experience for the role were dismissed. Ahmad Tavakoli, a member of the Expediency Council and former chair of the Parliamentary Research Center, called the appointment “fundamentally illegal” because, he said, article 51 of the House Rules states that the candidate must have at least 20 years of work experience, while Bazarpash has fewer than 17. He also alleged that part of Bazrpash’s working record had been falsified.
Etemad newspaper writes that the Audit Court may well be a launchpad for Bazrpash to bid for the presidency. “There are many activists and observers in the principlist faction who find young and Hezbollahi features in the political personality of Bazrpash,” it noted.
Bazrpash also has long-standing ties to the Ahmadinejad family; Davood Ahmadinejad supported his family after the death of his father in the Iran-Iraq war. He is the son-in-law of Alireza Ali Ahmadi, who was Minister of Education during Mahmood Ahmadinejad’s presidency. Since then, his father-in-law has left the political fray.
Bazrpash led the Student Basij at Sharif University of Technology. Some of his former colleagues have spoken out against his attacks on student rallies there, including a protest against the execution of Hashem Aghajari. When Ahmadinejad became mayor of Tehran, he took up various positions in the cultural and artistic organization of the municipality under the supervision of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, and also served as a young advisor to the mayor.
Bazrpash was appointed as the CEO of Pars Khodro Company in 2007 and then as the CEO of Saipa. During this period, he sought the merger of Iran Khodro and Saipa and had a conflict with the then-Minister of Industry.
Finally, he was elected as vice president and head of the National Youth Organization during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s second term. But due to a dispute with Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad’s controversial deputy, he was eventually fired.
After separating from Ahmadinejad, Bazrpash was elected as a member of the ninth parliament. Despite the distance between him and Ali Larijani, the conservative former speaker, he did not criticize him overtly and even tried to mediate among the hardliners. He ran as a candidate in the 2017 election for the presidency of the Popular Front of the Islamic Revolutionary Forces (Jamna), a powerful fundamentalist organization, and came third.
A Murky Business and Academic Past
Corruption allegations have swirled around Bazrpash for some years. He has been accused of illegally selling a plot of corruption, however, has been around for many years. He is accused of illegally selling a plot of land during his tenure in Saipa.
Mohammad Ashrafi Esfahani, head of the preliminary board for investigating administrative violations, implicitly named Bazrpash as one of two MPs involved in the case and said he was sentenced to dismissal from government employment on charges of “false documentation” “land grabbing”. “They will be in office until the end of the parliamentary term,” he said, “but after parliament is dissolved, this case will affect the qualifications of these two deputies, and if the Guardian Council examines them more closely, their situation will deteriorate.”
In addition, Iran newspaper has reported that Bazrpash twice rewarded himself with 300 million tomans [$15,000] in 2008 and 2009 during his tenure at Saipa. Bazrpash lodged a complaint with the newspaper.
In recent years, Bazrpash has also served at the Executive Headquarters of Imam’s Directive and has been named as a senior executive of one of its satellite companies, Tosca: a highly controversial firm that even the director of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting has not been able to control.
In addition to his career track record, Bazrpash has been accused of obtaining his MA and doctoral degrees by exerting pressure on university officials, and by illegally obtaining a scholarship.
This individual has now become the head of an institution that is supposed to monitor the budget. It is one of the few blockades in the fight against corruption in Iran. He now wields a great deal of economic power, which he may well use to further his own political ambitions.