Forty-six members of the Iranian parliament have warned President Hassan Rouhani about corruption among his inner circle. In a letter to the president, the parliament (Majlis) members specifically urged Rouhani to accept the “necessity to have to deal with Hossein Fereidun and to refer him to the judicial authorities [to be investigated.] The letter alleged Fereoidun to be implicated in banking fraud and abuse of his government position. Fereidoun is Rouhani’s younger brother and acts as a key gatekeeper to his brother.
Meanwhile, Rouhani has lashed out against his critics who charge that corruption is rampant in his government. The issue has escalated to the top levels of the Iranian regime and Rouhani and Sadeq Larijani, the head of the judicial branch, are each accusing the other of financial fraud. In the latest twist, the president’s opponents have even sough to link Rouhani to Babak Zanjani, a businessman who in 2013 was sentenced to death for defrauding the state of $2.7 billion. The Rouhani team has strongly denied the allegation.
Hardliners in Iran have for some time targeted Fereidun for a number of reasons. First, his appetite for financial gain from political office is a narrative that refuses to go away. He once allegedly pretended to be his older brother when speaking over the phone to a commercial party interested in the Iranian market. Meanwhile, Fereidun’s warm attitude toward the idea of resumption of diplomatic ties between Tehran and Washington also enraged the hardliners in Tehran. While, however, the latest corruption charges by the hardliners are no doubt politically motivated, the Rouhani government has a corruption problem that it cannot simply dismiss as fabrications.