A group of Iranian hardline lawmakers have sent a proposal for impeaching four ministers, including the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who admitted that money laundering exists in Iran. The proposal for Zarif’s removal carries 24 signatures and was sent to parliament on November 27.
The proposal came after Zarif said in an interview with Khabar Online on November 10 that “after all, money laundering is a reality in our country and there are many who benefit from money laundering.”
Zarif said that those who profit billions of dollars from money laundering are spending millions of it to prevent the passage of the bills requiring more financial transparency. The comments triggered a wave of enraged responses from some conservative politicians, who believe the remarks are an insult to opponents of Iran’s adoption of the standards set by the global anti-money laundering body known as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy commission summoned Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to clarify his controversial remarks about “rampant” money laundering in the country. Following his remarks, officials asked for information about the identity of the individuals or institutions involved in money laundering operations, although Zarif has not provided any.
Iran’s Judiciary Chief, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, criticized Zarif’s remarks, saying, “If widespread money laundering exists in the country, why haven’t you reported this issue to the Judiciary?”
FATF is an international watchdog that has demanded Iran adhere to anti-money laundering standards and enact laws to prevent the financing of terrorism. The adoption of anti-money laundering and terrorism financing laws by Iran can help its standing with European countries that have pledged to help Iran continue doing trade despite U.S. sanctions.
Meanwhile, Zarif's first deputy, Morteza Sarmadi, defended the foreign minister, saying that "According to the latest statistics, money laundering in Iran amounts to $10-15 billions of every year."
“Why do we fight over such obvious issues? Yes, the entire world is suffering from money laundering,” President Hassan Rouhani is reported to have said at a recent cabinet meeting. “Show me one country in the whole world in which money laundering does not take place and show me one country in the whole world in which corruption, narcotics and fake products do not exist.”
“All of us should strive against money laundering and corruption,” Rouhani said according to Tehran Times, in defense of Zarif.
“If Zarif receives a vote of confidence, it will mean that the JCPOA has been victorious and the ‘rampant’ money laundering claim has proven to be right. If Zarif is voted out of office, then the person who leaves the Foreign Ministry will turn into a national hero who “was making efforts,” but lawmakers did not allow him to continue” the editor-in-chief of the Iranian conservative daily Javan, Gholam-Reza Sadeqian, wrote in an editorial published on November 27.