Iranian billionaire tycoon Babak Zanjani sentenced to death for corruption

Two other defendants were convicted of 'corruption on earth', the most serious offence under Iran's criminal code

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The Independent Online

An Iranian billionaire tycoon has been sentenced to death for corruption, the country’s justice official has said. 

Babak Zanjani, one of Iran’s richest men, was arrested in December 2013 after accusations he withheld billions in oil revenue through his companies. He is said to be worth around $13.5 billion - or £9.5 billion.

The long trial held in public – a rarity for such a major cased in Iran – convicted the 41-year-old business man of fraud and economic crimes. Two other defendants were found guilty of “corruption on earth”, the most serious offence under the country’s criminal code, meaning they too will face the death penalty. 

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As well as facing the death penalty Mr Zanjani will also be forced to repay money to the state, judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie said at his weekly press conference.

"The preliminary court has sentenced these three defendants to be executed, as well as paying restitution to the plaintiff," Mr Mohseni-Ejeie said.

By his own account, Mr Zanjani for years arranged billions of dollars of oil deals through a network of companies stretching from Turkey to Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. He amassed a fortune of $10 billion – along with debts of a similar scale, the tycoon once told an Iranian magazine.

At the time of his arrest in December 2013, a judicial spokesman said: "He received funds from certain bodies ... and received oil and other shipments and now has not returned the funds". Prosecutors accused him of owing the government more than $2.7 billion for oil sold on behalf of the oil ministry.

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

Iran emerged from years of economic isolation in January when world powers led by the United States and the European Union lifted crippling sanctions against Tehran in return for curbs on Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Additional reporting by wires