Iran commutes billionaire Babak Zanjani’s death sentence to 20-year jail term

Iran commutes billionaire Babak Zanjani’s death sentence to 20-year jail term

An Iranian billionaire tycoon on death row for almost eight years had his sentence commuted to 20 years of jail.

Babak Zanjani, 48, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2016 on a number of charges, including embezzling funds from the oil ministry to evade US sanctions on Iran.

The Iranian judiciary said a clemency request was approved by the judiciary chief and the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on such cases.

The amnesty to Zanjani has been granted after he agreed to cooperate with the judiciary to locate the assets abroad in recent years during his time in prison and all the money was returned to the government, said Asghar Jahangir, spokesperson of the judiciary, according to Iran International.

The decision to commute Zanjani’s sentence suggests the Iran government’s attempts to seek revenue following years of US sanctions on the country.

Zanjani, who was one of Iran’s richest businessmen, was arrested in 2013 by then-president Hassan Rouhani on accusations he withheld billions in oil revenue through his companies.

He was said to be worth around $13.5bn (£9.5bn) and controlled a network of more than 60 companies, ranging from cosmetics, hospitality, to oil and banking.

He was accused of withholding $2.7bn (£2.2bn) of government money and was found guilty of “corruption on earth”, the most serious offence under the country’s criminal code.

By his own account, 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 $10bn – along with debts of a similar scale, the tycoon once told an Iranian magazine.

One of Iran’s high-profile business tycoons faced international sanctions for his role in helping the Iranian government circumvent sections to sell oil abroad. These include sanctions from the European Union in December 2012 and from the United States in April 2013.

In 2014, Iran executed billionaire businessman, Mahafarid Amir Khosravi after he was convicted for a $2.6bn state bank scam.