An unprecedented and highly sensitive investigative report prepared for
Iran's Parliament has detailed instances of corruption throughout the
country's judiciary. But in an apparent political tug-of-war between
rival Iranian leaders, the nearly 200-page document has been suppressed
and never released to the public. VOA has obtained a copy and Payam
Yazdian of VOA's Persian News Network reports exclusively on the
document's findings. Click here to see PNN's series of reports on this issue in Persian.
Iran's constitution authorizes the
country's parliament to conduct investigations and, based on this
right, several Iranian parliamentary deputies in 2004 requested a probe
of alleged corruption by Iran's judiciary. Investigators working for
the parliament's Judicial Inquiry and Review Committee, many of them
deputies themselves, subsequently reported a variety of corrupt
According to the report, these range from cases of
judicial officials conspiring with convicted drug dealers who received
reduced jail sentences or were allowed to escape custody, to instances
of apparent profiteering by judicial officials who collaborated with
private businesses for personal gain.
Among the cases cited in
the extensive report: justice officials appeared to have turned a blind
eye to a problem-plagued construction project through the mountains
north of the Iranian capital, Tehran --- an expansion of the Kandovan
tunnel that was originally built 70 years ago. The report notes
construction took 10 years and came in way over budget. The report
says there were no legal consequences.
In another scandal,
the report cites the case of Almakaseb, a large state-run trading
company headed by Vaez Tabasi, son of one of Iran's most important
religious leaders. The company was partially privatized seven years ago
in a process that the report says was not transparent and that $100
million went unaccounted for. Several courts heard cases related to
the financial losses, but the company and its officials were not
The Parliamentary probe also found judges were
allowed to purchase new Iranian Khodro automobiles at the reduced rates
normally charged for vehicles that came off the assembly lines with
defects. The auto manufacturer then allowed the sub-standard cars to
be sold to the public at full, new car prices.
case, the report says a drug dealer named Ali Azadi was arrested with
95 kilograms of opium and 40 kilos of morphine in his possession. He
was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison, but after two years
was granted a short prison furlough and never returned. Judiciary
officials did not inform the police of his escape. Six months later
the dealer was arrested again, according to the report, and this time
with 300 kilograms of opium.
The report even documents such
problems as the sale of university entrance exam questions, a practice
that allowed unqualified students to secure coveted university
admission slots. The report found that none of those identified as
perpetrators ever faced punishment. In one instance, a judge ruled
that the exam questions that were sold were fake, thereby allowing a
suspect to go free.
The names of top Iranian political and
religious leaders allegedly linked to corruption are not mentioned in
the report obtained by VOA, which Iranian sources say appears to have
been heavily edited to protect reputations.
Palizdar, who has been identified in state-controlled Iranian media as
a key investigator for the parliamentary probe, discussed the findings
in speeches at Iranian universities earlier this year. He asserted
that some of the country's top leaders were implicated.
mentioned by Palizdar include Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani, a
member of the powerful Council of Guardians; Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar
Nategh Noori, head of special investigations in the office of Iran's
supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; former Iranian President
Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; Mohammad Rafighdoost, former head
of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards; and former intelligence minister
Hojatoleslam Ali Fallahian.
Palizdar was detained in June
after speaking out and has not been heard from since. Some members of
the investigative committee have denied knowing him even though
state-controlled Iranian news organizations have confirmed his official
involvement in the probe.
Palizdar had previously been
identified publicly as a supporter of Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad. Mr. Ahmadinejad had in the past threatened to expose
officials involved in corruption.
But Western experts on Iran
interpreted this as a challenge to conservative backers of supreme
leader Khamenei, and before Palizdar's allegations could spread, he and
several associates were arrested and the parliamentary report
Palizdar had claimed those who were corrupt were protected by the head of Iran's Judicial Branch.
report says Judiciary officials did not respond to the requests of the
committee, ignoring most of the 300 questions the panel submitted.
Seyyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, the head of the Judiciary since 1999,
wrote a letter to the Investigative Committee, claiming security
officials within the Judiciary did not have to answer to parliament.
problem of corruption in Iran has been studied in the West. In 2007,
the international private watchdog group, Transparency International,
ranked Iran 131st out of 179 countries in its corruption index. The
conservative Heritage Foundation, a U.S. based policy study group,
asserted that in Iran: Corruption is perceived as widespread. Graft is
extensive and viewed as growing worse by the day. The anti-corruption
agency has less than 1,000 inspectors to monitor the 2.3 million full-time civil servants and numerous
government contractors who control most of Iran's economy.
U.S. State Department has also described official corruption in Iran as
persistent. In its 2007 Human Rights report, the State Department
stated: Corruption was a problem in the police forces and revolutionary
courts and to a lesser extent in the criminal and civil courts.
in Iran, a top official recently has publicly praised the Judiciary for
its role in fighting corruption. According to Iran's official IRNA news
agency, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, speaking to thousands of worshipers at
the central campus of Tehran University, voiced appreciation for the
Judiciary, the Intelligence Ministry and the Disciplinary Forces for
arresting, putting to trial, and executing murderers, rapists and drug
traffickers. He was quoted as saying: This decisive move was
praiseworthy, since the roots of corruption need to be dried.