‘Hypocritical Holy Men’: Pompeo Accuses Senior Iranians of Corruption

By Patrick Goodenough | July 23, 2018 | 2:51 AM EDT

Prominent Iranians were mentioned by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his speech on Sunday. Clockwise from top left: supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani, Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani, and former cabinent minister Sadegh Mahsouli. (Photos: Office of the supreme leader, Larijani/Twitter, Shirazi official website, IRNA, IHRDC)

(CNSNews.com) – Signaling a determination to spotlight corruption as well as ideology at the top levels of Iran’s government, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday night listed by name several prominent officials and ayatollahs who, he said, were “more concerned with riches than religion.”

Much of the coverage of the speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. focused on Pompeo’s remarks that the so-called “moderates” in the regime are anything but, describing them instead as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

He also spoke in detail about Iran’s malign, ideologically-driven foreign policy.

But arguably the most significant portion of the speech, entitled “supporting Iranian voices,” related to corruption and nepotism among the Islamic republic’s elite, including those claiming a mantle of religious authority.

While ordinary Iranians suffer and cry out for jobs and opportunities, he said, the regime was lining “its own pockets.”

“The ayatollahs are in on the act too,” Pompeo said. “Judging by their vast wealth they seem more concerned with riches than religion.”

“These hypocritical holy men have devised all kinds of crooked schemes to become some of the wealthiest men on earth, while their people suffer.”

Pompeo homed in on several individuals by name:

--Judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani is “worth at least $300 million” – wealth acquired, he said, from “embezzling public funds into his own bank account.”

Pompeo said he was “a little skeptical that a thieving thug under international sanctions is the right man to be Iran’s highest-ranking judicial official.”

The U.S. government sanctioned Larijani early this year for human rights abuses. (The Treasury Department designation said he “has administrative oversight over the carrying out of sentences in contravention of Iran's international obligations, including the execution of individuals who were juveniles at the time of their crime and the torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment or punishment of prisoners in Iran, including amputations.”)

--Sadegh Mahsouli, former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officer and minister in the government of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, nicknamed the “billionaire general.”

“He went from being a poor IRGC officer at the end of the Iran-Iraq war [in 1988] to being worth billions of dollars,” Pompeo said.

“He somehow had a knack for winning lucrative construction and oil trading contracts from businesses associated with the IRGC. Being an old college buddy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just might have had something to do with it as well.”

Mahsouli has been sanctioned by the U.S. since 2010 over abuses against students protesting Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election victory in 2009.

--Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, nicknamed the “sultan of sugar” for illicit trading with Pompeo said has generated more than $100 million.

“He’s pressured the Iranian government to lower subsidies to domestic sugar producers while he floods the market with his own, more expensive imported sugar,” Pompeo said.

--A Tehran Friday prayer leader is “worth millions of dollars” after the government transferred “several lucrative mines to his foundation.” Pompeo did not name the cleric, but he's believed to have been referring to Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani.

--Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei controls what Pompeo described as an “personal, off-the-books hedge fund called the Setad, worth $95 billion.”

“That wealth is untaxed, it is ill-gotten, and it is used as a slush fund for the IRGC,” he said. “The ayatollah fills his coffers by devouring whatever he wants.”

Setad has been designated by the Treasury Department since 2013.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses Iranian ambassadors and diplomats in Tehran on Sunday, July 22, 2018. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is in the background. (Photo: Iranian presidency)

‘Polished front men’

Elsewhere in the speech, Pompeo raised the issue of ostensible “moderate” political leaders in Iran, such as President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

The U.S. and other countries had for years sought to identify “political moderates” in Iran, he said. “It’s like an Iranian unicorn.”

“The regime’s revolutionary goals and willingness to commit violent acts hasn’t produced anyone to lead Iran that can be remoted called a moderate, or a statesman,” Pompeo continued

“Some believe that President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif fit that bill. The truth is they’re merely polished front men for the ayatollah’s international con-artistry.”

He said the nuclear deal “didn’t make them moderates – it made them wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

While some governments fretted that confronting the regime would hurt moderates in Tehran, Pompeo said, “these so-called moderates in the regime were still violent, Islamic revolutionaries with an anti-America, anti-West agenda. You only have to take their own words for it.”

 


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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow