Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh, former Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade, has sent IranWire a furious message after he was named in our reporting on a massive €6.6bn corruption scandal at Iran Petrochemical Commercial Company. The ninth and final part of this detailed series related to Nematzadeh's role in allowing corrupt PCC officials to stash €2.5m in ill-gotten gains in his companies abroad.
Nematzadeh denies the allegations. But the judge's opinion speaks for itself. IranWire’s reports were compiled and published based on a 2,000-page ruling by Branch 3 of the Speecial Court for Economic Corruption, which was suppressed inside Iran but leaked to our journalist. It reveals that though only 15 people were convicted after the years-long case in September 2021, to a combined total of 180 years in prison, Nematzadeh was one of the 129 named as having played a role in it.
What was Nematzadeh’s role in the case?
Because of a combination of political pressure and an organized cover-up by the judiciary and Ministry of Intelligence, scores of individuals and entities involved in the PCC case were never brought to court. The judge himself states that authorities in the Islamic Republic had prevented the investigation of these would-be defendants.
Page 10 of the first part of the judgement states: "
“Certain officials who have encountered the insistence of this court on stablishing the truth have promised some of the accused that they will resolve their cases through branches of the National Supreme Court [instead of the Corruption Court].
“Some of the very wealthy and influential main defendants, who had numerous meetings with officials, did their best to threaten and defame this court’s judges in order to get their cases shelved. Many times during the proceedings, they asked for help from officials to pervert the course of justice.
“When the court resisted, they arranged for the escape of defendants, such as Messrs. Mehdi Sharifi Niknafs [the now-convicted former executive director of the PCC] and Ashraf Riahi [son-in-law of Nematzadeh] and... forced Mr. Ashraf Riahi to make false statements to the BBC. He was in possession of valuable information about another defendant in the case but this way, he could no longer offer it [to the court].” Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh was one of those who was named as a defendant, but whose case never got to court.
A Misplaced Denial
Nematzadeh sent a message to IranWire via his personal Instagram account, stating that the published report about him was "wrong", and claiming: "It is a complete and baseless lie made by you to discredit him [Nematzadeh] in the eyes of the people. No court [session] has been held for petrochemical corruption for an order to be issued against him."
Unfortunately both the documents and official announcements by the Iranian judiciary indicate otherwise. The first hearing in the PCC corruption case was held on March 6, 2019, overseen - as was the rest - by Judge Masoudi-Magham. It trial lasted for 17 hearings over the next two and a half years. The last hearing ended on August 15, 2020, with the final defense cases laid out. On September 5, 2021, Zabihollah Khodaeian, a spokesperson for the Islamic Republic's judiciary, announced an abridged version of the judgment, with many of the names and details excised.
Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh's response insisted that no verdict had been issued against him. That was correct; as we repeatedly emphasized, he was one of the 129 original defendants but despite all the findings of Judge Masoudi-Magham against him, his name was taken off the final list before trial. Nowhere in our reports did we say he had been convicted; on the contrary, the judge laments that so many powerful characters with links to government in Iran were let off the hook.