Last updated: 23 October, 2011

Iran parliament impeaches economy minister

Iran’s parliament on Sunday launched an impeachment process against the economy minister for alleged laxity in monitoring banks, in fallout from a 1.6-billion-dollar embezzlement scandal.

The impeachment of Economy Minister Shamseddin Hosseini will focus on his alleged lax oversight of banks and handing out posts to individuals without properly vetting them, the state television’s website reported.

The minister must appear before parliament within 10 days.

In mid-September, officials began a probe into allegations that a private group had amassed trillions of rials through forged letters of credit approved by half a dozen Iranian banks.

Revelations of the scam, which had initially been estimated at 2.6 billion dollars and billed as Iran’s biggest ever, caused a media storm and prompted the country’s supreme leader to call for restraint as investigations continued.

A member of parliament’s presiding board, Omidvar Rezai, was quoted by local media as saying Sunday: “The minister will (also) be questioned … regarding his failure to resist pressure exerted by executive officials.”

Media opposed to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have published a letter attributed to his chief of staff and principal adviser, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, in which he reportedly asked Hosseini to facilitate the accused group’s operations.

For the past several months, Mashaie has been the target of a fierce campaign led by hardliners in the ruling conservative camp, who accuse him of leading a “current of deviation” to undermine the regime’s principles.

Ahmadinejad, whose decision to stand by Mashaie has angered conservatives, also slammed the new charges against his government.

In an interview with CNN, a transcript of which was published by Iranian media, Ahmadinejad said Saturday he expected the judiciary would clear all members of his government of involvement in the scam.

Parliamentary impeachment of ministers is relatively common in Iran, where the government and parliament traditionally have an uneasy relationship.

The last official to have paid the price was transport minister Hamid Behbahan, who was impeached and sacked by parliament in February after a deadly plane crash.