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This site is the inspiration of a former reporter/photographer for one of New England's largest daily newspapers and for various magazines. The intent is to direct readers to interesting political articles, and we urge you to visit the source sites. Any comments may be noted on site or directed to KarisChaf at gmail.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Meet The Firm Whose $95 Billion In Assets Keeps Iran's Ayatollah In Power -- By Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge

Bloomberg may be in hot water for scuttling an article that "might anger China" as exposed over the weekend, but that was only after winning investigative prizes for its series of reports exposing the epic wealth of China top ruling families in 2012: a topic that has received prominence at a time when the forced wealth redistribution plans of developed and developing nations, usually originated by these same uber-wealthy families, is all the rage. Another country, whose oligarchic wealth had largely escaped press scrutiny, was Iran. At least until today, when in a six month investigation culminating in a three-part report on the assets of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Reuters exposed Setad, an Iranian company that manages and sells property on order from the Imam.

In a nutshell, the company has built up its wealth by seizing thousands of properties from Iranian citizens. According to the investigation, Setad’s assets are worth $95 billion – 40 percent more than Iran’s total 2012 oil exports. It is this confiscated "wealth" that has allowed the Iranian clergy, and especially the Ayatollah, to preserve their power over the years.

In a little more than a nutshell, Reuters explains just who Setad is:
Pari Vahdat-e-Hagh ultimately lost her property. It was taken by an organization that is controlled by the most powerful man in Iran: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. She now lives alone in a cramped, three-room apartment in Europe, thousands of miles from Tehran.

The Persian name of the organization that hounded her for years is "Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam" – Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam. The name refers to an edict signed by the Islamic Republic's first leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, shortly before his death in 1989. His order spawned a new entity to manage and sell properties abandoned in the chaotic years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Setad has become one of the most powerful organizations in Iran, though many Iranians, and the wider world, know very little about it. In the past six years, it has morphed into a business juggernaut that now holds stakes in nearly every sector of Iranian industry, including finance, oil, telecommunications, the production of birth-control pills and even ostrich farming.

The organization's total worth is difficult to pinpoint because of the secrecy of its accounts. But Setad's holdings of real estate, corporate stakes and other assets total about $95 billion, Reuters has calculated. That estimate is based on an analysis of statements by Setad officials, data from the Tehran Stock Exchange and company websites, and information from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Just one person controls that economic empire – Khamenei. As Iran's top cleric, he has the final say on all governmental matters. His purview includes his nation's controversial nuclear program, which was the subject of intense negotiations between Iranian and international diplomats in Geneva that ended Sunday without an agreement. It is Khamenei who will set Iran's course in the nuclear talks and other recent efforts by the new president, Hassan Rouhani, to improve relations with Washington.
Unlike developed nations, where the first priority of the super rich is to flaunt their wealth, Iran's supreme leader lives a spartan lifestyle and has not been found to abuse the massive monetary holdings of Setad. However, as Reuters points out, "Setad has empowered him. Through Setad, Khamenei has at his disposal financial resources whose value rivals the holdings of the shah, the Western-backed monarch who was overthrown in 1979."

Logically, the next question is just how did Setad accumulate its vast asset holdings. The answer, just as logically, is simple: confiscation.
How Setad came into those assets also mirrors how the deposed monarchy obtained much of its fortune - by confiscating real estate. A six-month Reuters investigation has found that Setad built its empire on the systematic seizure of thousands of properties belonging to ordinary Iranians: members of religious minorities like Vahdat-e-Hagh, who is Baha'i, as well as Shi'ite Muslims, business people and Iranians living abroad.

Setad has amassed a giant portfolio of real estate by claiming in Iranian courts, sometimes falsely, that the properties are abandoned. The organization now holds a court-ordered monopoly on taking property in the name of the supreme leader, and regularly sells the seized properties at auction or seeks to extract payments from the original owners.
Just like in the US where the 1% effectively have molded the status quo into a wealth preservation mechanism, with profound control over not only the capital markets and the regulatory framework but over all three branches of government (simply note how many bankers have gone to prison for the systemic crash of 2008), so in Iran the Ayatollah has shaped society in a way that will ultimately benefit first and foremost him, as well as not only preserve his wealth but facilitate even greater accumulation of confiscated assets under any and all pretexts.

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