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Former Iranian Banker Arrested On Corruption Charges

Ali Rastegar Sorkhei, the former manager of Iran's Bank Mellat (file photo)

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has arrested the former manager of one of Iran's biggest banks and his deputy over alleged corruption as officials grapple with a ballooning pay scandal, IRGC affiliated news agencies Fars and Tasnim reported on July 20.

Ali Rastegar Sorkhei, the former manager of Bank Mellat and his international affairs deputy, were arrested by the IRGC on an order from Iran's judiciary, the reports said.

Previous reports linked Rastegar Sorkhei and his apparent resignation last month to a major scandal involving inflated salaries, bonuses, and other benefits for state executives and bank managers.

The hard-line Fars agency described Rastegar Sorkhei as a member of an organized banking "corruption ring" that has been identified in the country.

The salaries scandal is eyed warily by some who regard it as an attempt to damage President Hassan Rohani politically and diminish his chances of reelection in next year's presidential vote.

Rohani, who came to power in 2013 with the promise of ending corruption and improving the economy, has ordered an investigation into the "unconventional salaries."

Hard-liners have suggested that Rohani's brother and adviser Hossein Fereydoun is implicated in the scandal. They have accused him of placing allies in top executive positions.

Earlier this week, the hard-line Tasnim news agency claimed that Rastegar Sorkhei was appointed as Bank Mellat manager following a recommendation by Fereydoun.

The semiofficial news agency said Fereydoun and Rastegar enjoy friendly ties and both come from the city of Sorkhe in Semnan Province.

Speaking to reporters in Mashhad on July 20, IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said that the arrest of Rastegar Sorkhei was tied to the salaries scandal.

"People believe that this arrest is linked to the astronomical salaries. Those salaries are definitely one of the violations," Jafari was quoted by domestic media as saying.

"But that person has been arrested for participation in a larger corruption case," he added.

He said the IRGC follows "security affairs, [enemies'] infiltration attempts, and economic corruption."

Jafari suggested that there could be more arrests.

"Some politicians and others have been involved in this case," he was quoted as saying by domestic media.

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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL focusing on Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.