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Iranian Oil Tycoon’s Death Sentence Commuted To 20 Years

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Babak Zanjani, an Iranian oil sales intermediary who was previously sentenced to death for embezzling billions in oil revenue, will instead now serve a 20-year prison sentence.

The judiciary said a clemency request was approved by both the judiciary chief and the Supreme Leader.

Zanjani, known for his vast wealth and deep ties within the regime, was originally tasked with circumventing international sanctions to export Iranian oil during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency.

Despite his efforts, he failed to repay approximately $3 billion, leading to his arrest in 2013 after Hassan Rouhani took office. The intricacies of his operations suggest that he had significant insider support, yet his accomplices within the government remain unidentified.

After more than a decade in prison, the Iranian judiciary claims Zanjani’s cooperation with authorities and the successful identification and repatriation of his foreign assets were key factors in his sentence being commuted.

His assets abroad, initially withheld, were estimated to be worth between $4 to $5 billion. Following their sale, about $2 billion was deposited into Iran’s central bank.

Zanjani, who once claimed a net worth of $13.5 billion, had built an empire spanning numerous industries including hospitality, aviation, and real estate. His business activities involved an elaborate network of black-market dealers and money launderers across the UAE, Turkey, and Malaysia, enabling him to transfer $17 billion from oil sales back to Iran by 2013.

This high-profile case has been closely linked to various economic scandals and has seen Zanjani face international sanctions, including those from the European Union in December 2012 and the United States in April 2013.