Iran’s Audit Court Rules Former President Ahmadinejad Must Repay $1.3bn

The Supreme Audit Court of Iran has announced that former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in the last 18 months of his presidency, spent 4.6 trillion tomans or approximately $1.3 billion of Iran’s oil income “illegally”, Radio Farda reports.

The court has ordered the former president to repay $1.3 billion to the treasury. The ruling accuses Ahmadinejad that during his tenure oil revenues were spent without proper transfer from the oil ministry to the treasury. Although the court has found Ahmadinejad directly responsible, it has not issued any other measures against him.

The court has alleged that in one kind of illegal activity, Ahmadinejad’s government swapped unrefined oil with imports of gasoline and kerosene, without going through the legal process of obtaining permits.

It has also alleged that a lot of accounts in the energy sector remained unsettled after the former president ended his term. In one instance, the police were given permission to sell approximately $170 million of oil and the money was never seen again.

The Chairman of Parliamentary Budget and Planning Commission, Gholamreza Tajgardoon said that the reason for publishing the court decision was all kinds of speculations about corruption in the Ahmadinejad administrations.

There are widespread speculations that corruption in this period was astronomical; otherwise how could the country be in dire economic shape when from 2005-2013 oil prices were high and Iran exported close to $750 million of oil.

On July 30, the head of the court announced seven verdicts against Ahmadinejad but the full report was not made public. At the time, the former president dismissed the charges and threatened to disclose a “cowardly scenario” by “bands of power and wealth.” He alleged that a “cabal” was waging war against the former leading officials of his administration.

One of them, Hamid Baghaei was arrested and kept in prison for months in 2015 on unidentified charges. Baghaei was again behind bars over corruption allegations from July 9 of this year until his release on bail on July 26.

Following news that multiple verdicts have been issued against the former president, analysts looking at the murky legal process suggest that the development is intended as a warning for Ahmadinejad to rein in his criticism of the country’s clerical establishment.

“This is not simply a legal procedure but a political stick that can be wielded over Ahmadinejad to say, ‘if you really challenge the system, then we have complete control and can take away your freedom,'” says Scott Lucas, an Iran specialist at Birmingham University in Britain and editor of the EA World View website.

Ahmadinejad has clashed with and fallen out of favor with the establishment since leaving office. His administration is frequently tied to allegations of corruption and is accused by detractors of mismanaging the economy.

He registered to run in the May presidential election against the wishes of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He was eventually disqualified by the powerful Guardians Council, half of whose members are chosen directly by the supreme leader.

“Ahmadinejad is more of an annoyance than a threat,” Lucas says, “although the former leader’s criticism has taken on “greater significance” in the current fractious political scene.”