TEHRAN (Dispatches) – An Iranian couple has been sentenced to death for having smuggled hard currency and laundering $200 million of money, as well as having been found with a stash of gold at their home, the judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday.
Gholamhussein Esmaili spoke about Vahid Behzadi and his wife Najva Lasheidai, both in their early 40s but whose case had not previously been given a high profile, in a televised news conference.
Esmaili said they had been sentenced to death on charges "including disrupting the Islamic Republic’s exchange and gold market”.
"They have smuggled hard currency and laundered around $200 million,” he said. "Also around 100 kg of gold and over 24,700 gold coins were found and seized in the couple’s home.”
He said the couple, among 34 convicts who were handed down jail sentences ranging from three to 15 years, could appeal the verdict within 20 days.
The judiciary spokesman said 11 new verdicts related to economic corruption would be announced in the upcoming days.
With the economy under the pressure of U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus outbreak, Iran’s judiciary has been waging a campaign against corruption at a state and private level.
Separately, Esmaili said two Iranian lawmakers had been sentenced to 61 months in jail each on charges of "disrupting the country’s car market”.
Lawmakers Fereydoun Ahmadi and Muhammad Azizi both were linked to a financial corruption case at one of Iran’s two major car manufacturing companies, he said.
In the past years, the judiciary has jailed several officials, including Hussein Fereydoun, for financial crimes.
In November 2018, two men sentenced to death for corrupt economic practices were hanged in Tehran.
Vahid Mazlumin, known as the "sultan of coins”, and his accomplice Muhammad Ismail Qasemi, had been sentenced to death by a special court set up to confront profiteering and corruption in the wake of new U.S. sanctions on Iran.
A month later, Iran hanged a corrupt businessman for appropriating more than 10 trillion rials ($100 million) mainly by defrauding banks and a major oil refining firm.
The special courts were set up on the request of the Judiciary chief from Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei who has called for "swift and just” legal action to confront an "economic war” by foreign enemies.