TEHRAN, March 6 (UPI) — An Iranian oil tycoon was sentenced to death for withholding billions in oil revenue, which prosecutors say he channeled through his businesses.
Billionaire Babak Zanjani was convicted of corruption, fraud and economic crimes, a judiciary representative said in a press briefing.
Zanjani is one of the richest men in Iran and before his arrest had already been blacklisted by the United States and the European Union for helping Iran evade oil sanctions, the BBC reported.
He denied all charges.
Two others also were sentenced to death and all three ordered to repay embezzled funds.
Zanjani acknowledged using a network of companies in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Malaysia to sell millions of barrels of Iranian oil on behalf of the government since 2010. He claimed international sanctions prevented him from handing over $1.2 billion he still owed the government.
Prosecutors said Zanjani still owed the government more than $2.7 billion. Zanjani has claimed he was worth $13.5 billion.
Among the charges the oil businessman faced was “corruption on Earth” which carries a death sentence under Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, according to Iranian State TV.
He was also charged with massive fraud at Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum, Social Security Organization and at Bank Maskan and with money laundering and forgery.
Zanjani was arrested Dec. 30, 2013 after 12 Iranian lawmakers accused him of corruption and called for an inquiry into his financial activities.
The trial was held in public, which is unusual in Iran.