Iranian billionaire, Babak Zanjani, was given the death penalty on March 6th by the Iranian government for “corruption on Earth”. More specifically, he was convicted of embezzling billions of dollars from Iran’s national oil company, which is a huge part of the country’s economy.
The changing economy of Iran is a significant part of this trial. The embezzlements were said to have occurred in 2012 during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Presidency when international sanctions against Iran were still in place. This environment allowed Zanjani the ability to more effectively embezzle funds. This was not Zanjani’s first encounter with the law as he was sanctioned by the United States and European Union for assisting Iran in working around these sanctions. Now that there is a new President, Hassan Rouhani, and the sanctions have been lifted as a part of the nuclear arms deal, an eye has been turned towards addressing such corruption and bringing these funds back to the country.
Along these lines, Justice Minister Mostafa Pour Mohammadi did say the death penalty would be commuted if Zanjani pays back the money taken. He said, “Whenever we see the money back in our bank account, we will say that he has cooperated. So far, we haven’t seen him cooperate.” It would be a large sum to produce as the trial put the amount embezzled at $2.7 billion. Zanjani was convicted along with two other individuals and does plan to appeal. It will be interesting to see if the conviction and sentence can be overturned, or at least reduced. Certainly, producing such a large sum of money to commute the death penalty would seem to be impossible.