Update from November 12th:
Reuters investigates Khamenei’s economic empire worth at least $92 Billion.
- Part 1: Khamenei controls massive financial empire built on property seizures
- Part 2: Khamenei’s conglomerate thrived as sanctions squeezed Iran
The IRGC gets Richer by the Day
The exact amount of money controlled by the IRGC will never be known by the outside world, since the IRGC’s empire is very diversified and includes both legitimate businesses as well illegitimate deals, black-market activities and smuggling.
And yet, enough is known to understand that the IRGC is probably the most influential economic enterprise in Iran – controlling approximately $80 Billion, half of Iran’s imports and one-third of the country’s non-oil exports, an estimated 11 thousand projects and 40% of the economy , generating an annual revenue of at least $12 Billion a year.
The IRGC’s political ties to the regime and to the Majlis (parliament), together with its high security credentials, allow it take control of businesses without tenders, without legal supervision and, in some cases, even with huge tax-breaks.
Huge Corporations with Huge Influence
One example: Khatam al-Anbiya, the IRGC’s powerhouse construction company, controls over 812 registered companies inside or outside Iran, and (is) the recipient of 1,700 government contracts ,including numerous tunneling projects, nuclear/missile activities, gas and oil pipelines, and the international airport. Most of these projects were handed to the IRGC without tender or competition.
IRGC Major General Rostam Qassemi, who just happens to be oil minister, makes it quite clear what the IRGC’s goal and future should be: This base (Khatam al-Anbiya) should become the replacement for big foreign companies. In fact, since taking over as oil minister, the IRGC was awarded, again without tender, numerous projects in the energy market including a “$2.5bn contract to build infrastructure in the South Pars oil field” and “a $1.3bn contract to build a natural gas pipeline running nearly 560 miles from Bushehr province to Sistan-Baluchestan“.
IRGC Gets Richer as Iranians Get Poorer
Not content with controlling the businesses themselves, the IRGC is now poised to take over the management of the Central Bank of Iran: “The CBI and IRGC (are) to prepare an urgent plan for an orderly transfer of responsibility for running the entire banking system to the IRGC.”
Perhaps when that happens, the IRGC won’t have to deal in smuggling gold from Turkey, through Dubai, successfully profiting from and circumventing the effects of the UN-backed sanctions on the economy.
The IRGC’s (not so) Secret Partner
A closer look at the IRGC’s partners in businesses it bought or manages shines a bright light on the shady connections of the IRGC with the pinnacle of power in Iran – Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Khamenei controls numerous foundations such as the Imam Khomeini Foundation, Mostazafan Foundation, Abdolazim Shrine, and and Astan Qodsmanages. These foundations are directly appointed by the Supreme Leader and therefore, they do not pay taxes, and they cannot be audited by the parliament or by the judiciary system. Apart from huge assets in real estate ($45 Billion back in 2008), the Imam Khomeini Foundation is also a partner in Iran’s Telecommunication Company together with the IRGC and other profitable businesses in the energy markets, food and mining and much more.
The tie between Khamenei, the IRGC and Iran’s assets is no trivial matter. To quote Meir Javedanfar – “Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the regime’s supreme investment manager” and “Khamenei’s shareholders consist mainly of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Principalists“.
Khamenei and his IRGC partners not only have complete control over where Iran’s money will be invested, they also profit from the businesses that own and manage these projects.
The next post will focus on the IRGC’s control military activities in and outside Iran.