The chief of staff of Iran's president has said in a letter that €1 billion ($1.12 billion) in hard currency allocated for importing medicines and essential goods “has disappeared.”
In a letter to ministers of industry, agriculture and public health, Mahmoud Vaezi, President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff, demanded an explanation about what has happened to the imports pledged by the recipients of the hard currency.
Since the steep devaluation of Iran’s currency in 2018, the government began allocating cheap foreign currency to importers for a pre-approved list of essential goods, including medicines, food and crucial raw materials. The importers are obligated to purchase and bring the approved goods into the country.
While one dollar buys 120,000 rials on the free market, the government provides the dollar for 42,000 rials - or three times cheaper - to approved importers of essential goods.
But there have been instances of abuse as individuals or companies receiving cheap foreign currency never import what they have agreed to, or once the goods arrive, sell them at much higher prices.
Sharq daily reported on July 20 that Vaezi in his letter mentioned about €849 million allocated for importing “essential goods” and €130 million for medications. In total, he accused 20 companies of not bringing to the country what they had legally pledged to import.
The head of the presidential office also sent the letter to the Central Bank of Iran demanding legal pursuit of the case.
Just days earlier, Health Minister Saeed Namaki reported that a group of ministry employees were arrested for collusion in corruption conspiracies related to imports of medicines and medical equipment.
He disclosed that some importers had received €2 million to import heart stents but instead had imported electricity cables and fled the country.