Iranian billionaire sentenced to death

BBC Persian's Fardad Fahrazad meets Babak Zanjani in a car park in Dushanbe

Image caption

Mr Zanjani has denied withholding oil revenue

Iranian billionaire businessman Babak Zanjani has been sentenced to death for corruption, justice officials say.

He was arrested in December 2013 after accusations that he withheld billions in oil revenue channelled through his companies. He denies the allegations.

Zanjani was convicted of fraud and economic crimes, a judiciary spokesperson said at a press briefing.

Two others were also sentenced to death and all were ordered to repay embezzled funds.

The ruling can be appealed.

One of Iran’s richest men, Zanjani had been blacklisted by the US and EU for helping Iran evade oil sanctions in place at the time.

He had acknowledged using a web of companies in the UAE, Turkey, and Malaysia to sell millions of barrels of Iranian oil on behalf of the government since 2010.

Before his arrest, Zanjani had claimed international sanctions were preventing him from handing over $1.2bn still owed to the government.

But at his recent trial, prosecutors claimed he still owed the government more than $2.7bn in oil revenue.

He was taken into custody a day after President Hassan Rouhani ordered his government to fight “financial corruption”, particularly “privileged figures” who had “taken advantage of economic sanctions”.

In a 2013 interview with the BBC, Zanjani played down his political connections in Iran, saying: “I don’t do anything political, I just do business.”

Zanjani has said he is worth about some $13.5bn (£9.5bn).

International sanctions on Iran were lifted in January after a watchdog confirmed it had complied with a deal designed to prevent it developing nuclear weapons.

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