Iranian press review: Tea business brews record-breaking $3.37bn corruption case

Corruption case sets new record in Iran

A scandal involving the importation of tea and machinery for the tea industry has established a new monetary record for a corruption case in Iran.

Local media reports indicated that over $3.37bn had been siphoned from the subsidised foreign currency provided by the government to the Debsh Tea company.

In Iran, the government offers subsidised foreign currency to import medicines and essential goods, but only well-connected individuals can access these resources.

This case once again spotlighted the systematic corruption pervading the economy amid the government’s new initiatives to raise taxes and restrict resources available for social support to vulnerable sectors of society.

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“If this substantial sum of money were circulating in the economy, many families dependent on government assistance could better organise their lives,” said the Arman Meli daily on Tuesday.

While the government denies any involvement in the scandal, reformist outlets and politicians suggest that such enormous corruption could not have occurred without the participation of some officials.

Abbas Abdi, a prominent political figure, accused the government of being responsible, saying, “It is not believable that this has happened without high-ranking people in power being aware of it.”

Opposition figures also expressed their rage, demanding that the judicial system bring the perpetrators to justice.

“The existence of an organised corruption system is evident in this case,”  Khabar Online quoted lawmaker Ahmad Alireza Beigi from the city of Tabriz. 

“Wherever there is favouritism and lack of control, corruption will happen, regardless of which government is in power.”

Rise in stillbirths due to air pollution

Environmental experts have warned about an increase in stillbirths in the capital, Tehran, and other major Iranian cities due to air pollution, while Tehran schools and universities were closed last week due to the problem.

Mohammad Darvish, an Iranian environmental expert, criticised the authorities for not taking any action to solve the country’s air pollution issue. He cited official data indicating that eight percent of stillbirths were attributed to air pollution, one of the higher rates globally.

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“People are the victims of this issue, and the number of deaths may be even higher than the official announcements,” Darvish said.

On Tuesday, Mohammad Sadegh Hassanvand, director of the Air Pollution Research Center at Tehran University, confirmed a rise in stillbirths related to air pollution in recent years.

He said that 12 percent of all deaths in Iran were a result of air pollution, estimating the number of deaths related to the issue to be between 45,000 and 50,000.

The main factors contributing to the thickening toxic smog in Iranian cities are outdated infrastructure, non-standard oil usage, the use of mazut (a low-quality, heavy fuel oil) in power plants, and a lack of urban planning.

Hassanvand emphasised that the government’s decision to halt the old vehicle disposal plan, driven by the country’s economic crisis, is one of the main reasons for the declining air quality in major cities.

He said the economic cost of air pollution in Iran is over $20bn.

Iran to hold military drill with Russia and China

Iran’s navy commander, Rear Admiral Shahram Irani, announced that Iran will conduct a joint exercise with its key allies, Russia and China, local media reported.

Irani also mentioned that Tehran invited Pakistan, Brazil, Jordan, India and South Africa to participate in the military drill as observers. However, he did not reveal the exact date of the exercise.

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On Sunday, Irani was quoted by Donya-e Eqtesad daily, saying, “The main message of joint exercises in the region is that there is no need for a third country to ensure shipping security. The countries in the region can cooperate for security.”

Irani made the announcement amid increasing attacks in the region against US forces and Israel by the Houthis in Yemen and armed groups backed by Tehran in Iraq.

At the same time, Iran’s navy unveiled three homegrown unmanned armed drones, including underwater and surface unmanned vehicles, and the Chamrosh-4 vertical launch drone.

Tehran’s drone programme gained international attention after Russia widely deployed Iran’s Shahed drones in the war in Ukraine. 

The Houthis in Yemen are among the military forces that have used Iranian-made drones in attacks against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and vessels in the Red Sea.

Iranian press review is a digest of news reports not independently verified by Middle East Eye

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