Al-Arabia – An Iranian man accused of helping to embezzle billions of dollars while the country evaded international oil sanctions has been arrested after a lengthy international manhunt, media reported Monday.
Alireza Zibahalat Monfared, 43, is accused of involvement in Iran’s biggest-ever corruption scandal, working alongside tycoon Babak Zanjani who was sentenced to death last year for pocketing $2.8 billion while helping the country bypass sanctions. The head of Iran’s international police department, Masoud Rezvani, told Mizan Online that Monfared had been extradited via Havana and Moscow before arriving in Tehran on Sunday.
Monfared had various passports and had managed to escape extradition at least once when he was briefly detained in Malaysia, Rezvani added, without giving further details. Unconfirmed reports said he had finally been arrested in Dominica, according to the state-run Iran Daily newspaper.
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“He had close contacts with the main individuals in the great oil embezzlement file and was handed to the judiciary,” Rezvani said. Before his trial, Zanjani would regularly boast in media interviews of his wealth and skills in finding ways round global banking sanctions to ensure Iran continued to receive money for international oil sales, saying he acted at all times with the support of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Zanjani’s lawyer, Rasoul Kouhpayehzadeh, welcomed Monfared’s arrest, saying it would prove his client’s innocence. Monfared’s “interrogation and trial will shed light on many issues and unsolved puzzles,” Kouhpayehzadeh said, according to Iran Daily.
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“My client had no role in the trade of oil consignments. (Monfared) played an important role in the sale operations… In fact, he did the oil operations.” Zanjani was arrested in 2013, three months after President Hassan Rouhani took office pledging a crackdown on corruption, that has shown limited results.
On Sunday, officials announced the arrest of a suspect accused of stealing 20,000 billion rial ($500 million) in loans designed for manufacturing projects. In 2014, Iran hanged businessman Mahafarid Amir Khosravi for masterminding a $2.6 billion banking scam, while one of the main suspects, Bank Melli’s former chief Mahmoud Reza Khavari, fled to Canada. News of Monfared’s arrest comes on the first anniversary of the lifting of sanctions against Iran following an agreement with world powers over its nuclear program.