Iran sentences 4 to death for billion-dollar embezzlement


An Iraqi money dealer counts Iranian rial banknotes bearing a portrait of the late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, at an exchange office in Baghdad on February 3, 2012. President Barack Obama signed an executive order placing sanctions on Iran's Central Bank on February 6, 2012. AFP PHOTO/ ALI AL-SAADI



A court in Iran has sentenced four people to death for helping to embezzle billions of dollars.

A total of 39 suspects have been found guilty in what Fars news agency describes as Iran's biggest ever embezzlement case.

The others received prison sentences ranging between 10 years and life, chief prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeii told reporters today.

Those who received the death penalty have not been named. 

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The scandal was uncovered in September 2011, Reuters reported, and involved an Iranian investment company that allegedly used forged documents to secure loans worth $2.6 billion. The money was used to buy state-owned companies. 

According to Fars, the fraud began in 2007 and involved some of Iran's biggest banks, who issued the loans to the Amir Mansour Arya Investment Group.

Several top banking officials were fired over the scandal, RIA Novosti reported, including the heads of the Iranian National Bank and Bank Saderat.

The former head of the largest Iranian firm, Bank Melli, is wanted for questioning over his involvement but has fled to Canada, where he has dual citizenship. Iran has asked the Canadian government to send Mohammad Reza Khavari back, Fars said.

Critics of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggested that his office was also implicated, according to Agence France Presse. He denied the allegations.