August 3, 2020
In an interview with reformist daily Etemad on Sunday August 2, A Tehran City Councillor, Mahmoud Mirlohi, has revealed that the case of illegal sale of properties by the Tehran Municipality under Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf is still open for investigation.
Qalibaf (Ghalibaf), who is currently the Speaker of Iranian Parliament (Majles) was the mayor of Tehran for 12 years from 2005 To 2017.
The case, also known as “the astronomical corruption at the Tehran Municipality,” has been under investigation on and off since 2017 and Qalibaf has lodged a counter-complaint against councillor Mirlohi and Yashar Soltani, a journalist who first disclosed the case on his website Memari News.
Mirlohi told Etemad that the dossier of “astronomical corruption at the Tehran Municipality” has disappeared in the corridors of the Iranian Judiciary.
However, he disclosed that some of the properties that had been illegally transferred to an IRGC-affiliate, the Rasa Tejarat Company, have been taken back during the past weeks. Rasa Tejarat is part of the IRGC’s Cooperative Foundation.
Qalibaf is a former IRGC major general and still enjoys the support and confidence of the military organization.
Initial reports about the case said that the Municipality had sold over 670 real estate properties to regime insiders and the circle of Qalibaf’s aides at prices much lower than the market price.
Mirlohi told Etemad on Sunday that the case now includes over 2,000 properties as further follow ups have revealed.
It is not clear how many of the properties were cheaply given away to Rasa Tejarat and how many to individuals, some of whom were most probably also members of IRGC.
The councillor says the current Mayor Pirouz Hanachi is slated to talk about 41 of the illegal sales in which former municipality officials and some former Tehran City Councillors are said to have been involved.
Reports by the State Audit Organization as well as media reports have revealed in 2017 that numerous real properties were sold at “unreal and very low” prices, sometimes with a 50 percent discount and in 60 instalments during the time Qalibaf served as Tehran’s mayor.
Although the State Audit Organization has confirmed that at least 200 properties were sold illegally by the Tehran Municipality, there has been no report on any legal investigation about the role and responsibility of Qalibaf in these cases.
In other words, Qalibaf has not been indicted or officially implicated in the astronomical corruption case even after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered an investigation into IRGC-linked corruption at the municipality.
Oddly enough, while the original case remains unattended to, Qalibaf’s complaint against Mirlohi has already been investigated at Bench 15 of the Tehran Court chaired by Judge Hamid Alizadeh.
Judge Alizadeh is currently under arrest as an accomplice in a major bribery case involving former Deputy Judiciary Chief Akbar Tabari.
Despite being implicated by the media in the corruption case, Qalibaf has been an advocate of anti-corruption campaigns in Iran in recent years, particularly after 2017 when he was one of the contestants in the presidential race.
Meanwhile, other Tehran City Councillors have revealed in their interviews with Etemad that as a result of the illegal transaction with the Tehran Municipality, the IRGC-affiliated Rasa Tejarat Company owes 40 trillion rials (around $1.25 billion at the time) to the Municipality, but it has refused to pay its debt.
In 2018, another IRGC-linked outfit called Yas Holding was accused of owing the municipality around $11 billion.
There is still no official report on the details of possible investigations, but anecdotal accounts indicate that the case of astronomical corruption is also being investigated at the Iranian Armed Forces’ Judicial Organization.
Apart from major General Qalibaf’s involvement as the former mayor of Tehran, the presence of IRGC-affiliated companies in the case puts the matter in the jurisdiction of the Armed Forces’ Judicial Organization. This is likely to make matters about the case even less transparent.