Undercurrents of Corruption in the Shamkhani Family / Part Two

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This article was originally published on the IranGateNews website on 10 April 2023. You can read the full article (in persian) and access additional information by following this link.

How did Shamkhani and Tahayori begin?

The footprint of Ali Shamkhani’s most famous child in these cases has been so prominent that some claim a significant portion of the country’s oil exports during the sanctions period was conducted by him.

In the first part of the investigation into the corruption case of the Shamkhani family, the main members of this family were introduced. In this section, the role of Hossein Shamkhani, who has been the main actor in economic corruption, is examined. The second and third parts of this case study focus on Hossein’s role and his relationships in terms of exploiting rent-seeking to benefit from the non-transparent sanction environment.

The ‘Admiral’ Reveals Hossein Shamkhani

As mentioned in the first part of this case, Hossein Shamkhani is the eldest son of Ali Shamkhani and Azarmidokht Tabatabai. According to information published by Saeed Aganji, a journalist and political analyst, and Mehdi Nassiri, the former editor-in-chief of the Kayhan newspaper and a conservative journalist, Hossein Shamkhani is one of the main players in circumventing sanctions.

Of course, other sources have also published information on this topic, but generally, all sources refer to the ‘Admiral’ ship case as the main key to revealing Hossein Shamkhani’s role in corruption cases. The tragedy of the Metropol building in Abadan is another turning point that led to the identification of other members of the Shamkhani family by corruption investigators. However, this section focuses on the importance of the Admiral company and ship case in the economic corruption of the Shamkhani family, as it is evaluated as the golden key to solving the puzzle of sanction brokering by Ali Shamkhani’s son.

What is the Admiral Story?

In February 2022, the Indian Coast Guard reported the detention of a container ship named ‘Kabul’ at the Kandla port on India’s west coast. Immediately after the news broke, it was revealed that the owner of the detained ship was ‘Admiral’, belonging to Hossein and Hassan Shamkhani (sons of Ali Shamkhani). This news was widely reflected in domestic media, but the Shamkhani family (Hossein) complained to ILNA news agency as the publisher of this news. But what was the reality, and what happened to the Admiral?

According to available information, the Admiral company was established in 2011 and was active in maritime transport services until last year. Evidence published by media outlets points to the company’s significant role in circumventing sanctions. However, according to information on the ‘Marine Traffic’ website, the Kabul container ship, owned by the Admiral company, sailed under the flag of the African country of Liberia. But evidence suggests that this company was central to Iran’s illegal and informal oil exports.

Although after this revelation, the Shamkhani family quickly moved to dissolve the Admiral company. However, an unexpected event occurred, providing the media with a golden key to illuminate the Shamkhani family’s role in economic corruption cases.

Yashar Soltani, an Iranian journalist, also tweeted on this topic, accusing Ali Shamkhani and his children of exploiting US sanctions after the US withdrew from the JCPOA. He also questioned Ali Shamkhani on his Twitter account and asked him about the number of oil tankers owned by Hossein Shamkhani.

However, information available to ‘Iran Gate’ indicates that the Admiral company was dissolved by Hossein Shamkhani (the company’s CEO). This action was to neutralize an Indian court lawsuit that had found contradictions in the documents of the Kabul container ship and its crew.

From ‘Admiral’ to ‘Mansouroun’!

As mentioned, the detention of the ship owned by the Admiral company was a key indicator of the Shamkhani family’s role in circumventing oil sanctions. However, over time, some journalists unveiled Hossein Shamkhani’s connections with mafia rings in the country’s oil and petrochemical industry. The most significant connection pertains to Hossein Shamkhani’s collaboration with Ehsan Tahayori.

Ehsan Tahayori is the son of Sardar Ali Tahayori, one of the commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). There are documents indicating the collaboration and friendship between Shamsali Tahayori and Ali Shamkhani before the revolution. For instance, Shamsali Tahayori was a member of the “Saf” group, which collaborated with the “Mansouroun” group. It’s worth noting that Ali Shamkhani was also one of the main members of Mansouroun in the years leading up to the 1978 revolution.

Birth of a Sultan

However, after the revolution and with the establishment of the Islamic Republic system, Shamsali Tahayori and Ali Shamkhani joined the IRGC. Later on, Sardar Tahayori established the Tahayori and Partners exchange, which played a significant role in currency exchanges related to the exports of petrochemical companies. This exchange later changed its name to Iran Currency Exchange and became known by this name.

This role became much more prominent from 2013 to 2022, as the sanctions imposed on Iran’s oil industries led the Islamic Republic to seek ways to circumvent these sanctions, making trusted exchanges more prominent than ever.

This situation transformed the Tahayori exchange, owned by Sardar Ali Tahayori, into one of the sultans of the country’s petrochemical industry. In other words, oil sanctions turned an exchange owned by an IRGC commander into the main channel for the country’s oil exports. This situation paved the way for exploiting this non-transparent environment, adding another sultan to the many corrupt sultans in Iran’s rentier economy.

The Power Duo: Hossein and Ehsan

While Hossein Shamkhani stands out as a key figure in the Shamkhani family for bypassing sanctions, Ehsan Tahayori, being the son of Sardar Ali Tahayori, equally holds a central role in transferring the currency obtained from the informal and illegal export of petrochemical products to the country. Based on the information published by the Iranian journalist Saeed Aganji, and considering the friendship history of Ali Shamkhani with Ehsan Tahayori’s father, it’s clear that Hossein Shamkhani and Ehsan have formed a powerful alliance to bypass oil sanctions.

In fact, Hossein was responsible for selling oil to Iran’s informal clients, and Ehsan, considering his father’s currency channel, was focused on transferring the currency to the country. Of course, the passing of Sardar Tahayori in April 2020 and the sensitive job position of Ali Shamkhani (Secretary of the country’s Supreme National Security Council) have also played a role in strengthening the relationship between Hossein Shamkhani and Ehsan Tahayori.

Ehsan and the Money Laundering Saga

In February 2023, Saeed Aganji tweeted about Ehsan Tahayori’s release on a 2,500 billion Toman bail, highlighting his involvement in various oil and petrochemical corruption cases. In this tweet, he unveiled Ehsan’s trips to Dubai for money laundering purposes, supported by the intelligence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Some sources also report Ali Shamkhani’s (the then Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council) influence in getting Ehsan out of prison.

The news site ‘Iran Gate’ in February 2023 revealed Ehsan Tahayori’s active role in the cases of Maroun, Pasargad Oil, Arvand, and PCCI. The same report cites Ehsan Tahayori and the Iran Currency Exchange as pivotal players in the oil transactions and financial transfers associated with the Quds Force.

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