The new edition of a global "corruption index" has seen Iran fall into the bottom 10, ranking it one of the world's most crookedly run countries.
According to Transparency International, which publishes the annual Corruption Perception Index, Iran has fallen from 141st on the list of 180 countries to eighth from bottom – one of the most marked declines.
The fall comes after a year in which the regime in Tehran has faced sustained international anger for certifying election results that many members of the opposition decried as rigged.
It was reported yesterday that five people have been sentenced to death and 81 jailed for up to 15 years in connection with unrest after the election.
It was a similar story in Afghanistan, which dropped three places to second-bottom in the wake of its chaotic elections, leaving only lawless Somalia languishing below it.
But, in a year that saw organisers fiercely criticise many world leaders for failing to harness the credit crunch to put in place new anti-corruption measures, Britain also came in for censure, falling by one place to its lowest rank in 11 years. In the aftermath of the scandal over MPs' expenses, the UK ranks 17th.
Chandrashekhar Krishnan, executive director of Transparency International UK, said that Britain "should demonstrate that its own house is in order before exhorting developing countries to improve their governance."
The organisers were critical of Western countries' failure to use the economic crisis to institute more robust legal measures. "The sense of urgency that we had last autumn seems to have vanished," Francois Valerian, director of Transparency International's private sector programmes, told Bloomberg news. "Our concern is that we are back to business as usual."
African countries accounted for half of the 20 most corrupt nations. But the news was not all bad. A string of African nations made advances up the table, with Gambia climbing 52 spots to 106th, and Liberia leaping from 138th to 97th only two weeks after a key anti-corruption official in Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's government was murdered.
The table is compiled by measuring perceived levels of corruption in the public sector. New Zealand topped the survey as the most honestly run country.
Top 5 and worst 5
1 New Zealand