Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is being forced to shrink its sprawling business empire and some of its senior members have been arrested as part of President Hassan Rouhani’s attempts to curb the elite force’s role in the economy.
In the past year, the guards, who have interests in sectors ranging from oil and gas to telecoms and construction, have had to restructure some holding companies and transfer ownership of others back to the state, a regime insider and a government official told the Financial Times.
At least a dozen guards members and affiliated businessmen have been detained in recent months, while others are being forced to pay back wealth accrued through suspect business deals, the officials said.
One manager of a large holding company affiliated to the guards was arrested a few months ago and cash worth millions of dollars was confiscated from his house, said a businessman who has worked with the guards.
A brigadier general — described as the corps’ economic brain — was also arrested this year, but released on bail, the regime insider said.
The crackdown, which is being conducted discreetly to avoid undermining the guards — one of the most powerful arms of Islamic republic’s regime — began last year.
It started after Mr Rouhani, a pragmatist who has criticised the guards’ role in the economy, told Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, about the vast wealth individuals affiliated to the 120,000-strong force had accumulated, the officials said.
“Mr Rouhani has told the supreme leader that the economy has reached a deadlock because of high levels of corruption and the guards’ massive control over the economy,” said one regime insider, who is a relative of the supreme leader.
“Other than economic concerns, Mr Khamenei feels the need to save the guards [from corruption] and has naturally thrown his support behind the move.”
Khatam-ul-Anbia, the guards’ economic arm, declined to comment.
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