Iran: Audio leak on corruption in the IRGC

Iran

Published on Thursday, 24 February 2022 Back to articles

Majles speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf

In mid-February a leaked audio file grabbed the attention of many observers in Iran. 

The recording reflected a conversation between the former chief commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Mohammad Ali Jafari, and his deputy in charge of the IRGC’s economic affairs. In the conversation, the two discuss a massive corruption case within the IRGC involving the Yas Holding Company, which was owned by the IRGC’s Bonyad Taavon financial conglomerate. 

The recording includes comments about: the assassinated Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani; former mayor of Tehran and current Majles speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf; and head of IRGC Intelligence Hossein Taeb, who is a senior member of the Supreme Leader’s office. The remarks indicate that the three were involved in Yas Holding or other cases of embezzlement. 

Iranian media speculation has focused on the role that Qalibaf may have played in the corruption schemes and especially because one of his former deputies, Issa Sharifi, has been charged with corruption. Also a former IRGC commander, Sharifi was tried in a military court and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment and a US$22 million fine. 

Many believe that Qalibaf and his confidants were also involved in the scheme as well.

The first reaction from hard-line circles was to claim the recording was fabricated, but after a few days hard-line Fars News Agency news outlet published a detailed report about the corruption scheme surrounding the Yas Holding Company, muting any denials from hard-line factions. 

In an interesting twist, the Fars report indicated that Yas Holding was established in order to support the Quds Force financially. One learns from the audio file of an unwritten agreement that 90% of the profits from Yas Holding would be diverted to the Quds Force, but that never materialised and profits were instead funnelled into corrupt schemes. 

In the audio file, there are also references to Hossein Taeb paying funds to silence certain critics. That is a serious accusation against the sitting head of the IRGC Intelligence organisation. 

Two aspects of the affair are important.  

First, it is a mistake to believe that hard-line forces in Iran are united. There are many splits within the ranks of the IRGC and also between hard-line political forces. Divisions generally appear between networks of power that compete or coalesce in order to benefit from rents and opportunities. More such rifts and alliances can be expected. 

Second, for both right and wrong reasons, information is being leaked to reveal the depth of corruption and mismanagement within the political system. As Iran has a shame culture, that will compel many political operatives to disassociate themselves from individuals and groups that have been involved in corrupt schemes. 

One such case is the recent revelations against the sons of Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and a former IRGC commander. This and other potential disclosures will eventually lead to political realignments and present opportunities for younger political figures. 

This excerpt is taken from Iran Strategic Focus, our monthly intelligence report on Iran. Click here to receive a free sample copy.

The February 2022 issue of Iran Strategic Focus also includes the following:

Commentary

  • As the Vienna talks take a final lap, what happens next?
  • Implications

Politics & Society

  • Khamenei supports the negotiators
  • Bahonar on constitutional reform
  • Leak on IRGC corruption
  • Pandemic update

Special Feature

  • Iran–GCC relations

Profile

  • Abbas Abdi – chairman of the Association of Iranian Journalists 

Economy & Energy

  • Optimism over frozen assets
  • Iran–EU trade
  • Petroleum plans

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