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Iran To Jail, Lash Ex-Central Bank Staff For Bribes

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- An Iranian court has sentenced to jail and lashes 16 former Central Bank staff for taking bribes including 35 billion rials ($3.5 million) in cash as well as gold and foreign currencies, state radio reported.

It was the latest sign of the Islamic republic, whose leaders have vowed to root out graft, getting increasingly tough on corruption in the world's fourth-largest oil producer.

The radio report said those accused received sentences of 10 years in prison, lashes, and fines in the Tehran court's "initial verdict," without making clear whether all 16 were handed the same punishment.

The report did not say when any lashings would take place.

They were also banned from holding government office again, it said, without detailing the crimes and saying what positions they had held in the Central Bank.

They were accused of receiving 35 billion rials in cash and large quantities of gold coins and foreign currencies in exchange for providing finance in the form of letters of credit, a key tool for trade, the radio said.

President Mahmud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 vowing to clamp down on corruption. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has previously also ordered a crackdown on graft.

Last January, Iran's judiciary said a customs contractor was executed for corruption and three customs employees were sentenced to death, a rare use of capital punishment for economic crimes in the country.

Earlier the same month, an Iranian court sentenced three state gas company managers to 10 years in prison and 74 lashes each for taking bribes totaling 23 billion rials.