The supposed father of the feared “Iranian bomb” never published a scholarly work, but his family’s firms have done very well for themselves
Though he was well-known to Western intelligence agencies, most Iranians had never heard of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh before his November 27 assassination made headlines. The regime’s security apparatus was so thorough at scrubbing evidence of Iran’s top nuclear scientist’s existence from cyberspace that he does not even have an academic paper to his name, though historical records of his activities are now mysteriously reappearing online.
Fakhrizadeh’s name does, however, appear in multiple public business records dating as far back as 2003. Charting his business interests helps illustrate how private companies chaired by trusted individuals carry out security-sensitive activities on behalf of the regime.
The records show Fakhrizadeh’s businesses were involved in a host of such activities, ranging from Big Brother–style surveillance at universities, newsrooms, religious sites, and government offices to the procurement of “regulated materials and substances.”
Fakhrizadeh, a target of US sanctions since 2008, founded several businesses in partnership with other internationally sanctioned individuals. His wife, Sediqeh Qassemi, continues to act as an executive board member in a private security firm, an oil and gas company, and others providing Internet-based communications.
Who Was Fakhrizadeh?
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Mahabadi was born in the city of Qom in 1958 and married Sediqeh Qassemi sometime after the 1979 Revolution. They have three sons, Mohammad Mehdi (1983), Hamed (1984), and Hani (1990).
According to Iranian media, Fakhrizadeh was a “scientist,” “university professor,” and “doctor” (i.e., PhD) who joined the IRGC after its inception and rose to the rank of brigadier general. Most sources agree that Fakhrizadeh had a master’s degree in nuclear engineering, but it is unclear where he earned his alleged PhD. Fakhrizadeh does not seem to have produced any academic publications nor is there any evidence of his work being cited in one.
Some reports say Fakhrizadeh became a faculty member of the department of physics at the IRGC’s Imam Hossein University in 2014 and others say he joined the faculty in 1993 at the age of 34. He was also once reportedly president of the Defense Ministry–controlled Malek Ashtar University. We were unable to independently verify any of these claims through news or university records.
And since his death, the catalog of his achievements has only been growing. Alireza Zali, head of the national COVID-19 taskforce recently told the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) that Fakhrizadeh and the SPND developed the first COVID-19 testing kit and that his efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine were successful and they are now in the human testing phase. In an interview with the Young Journalists Club (YJC) news agency, Fakhrizadeh’s sons Mohammad Mehdi and Hamed described his various scientific accomplishments, similarly discussing his contributions to the new vaccine.
In another instance, the head of Iran’s Civil Defense Organization, Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali, claimed that Fakhrizadeh was the inventor of the civil defense industry’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-Yield Explosives (CBRNE) defense protocol, and IRGC commander Reza Talaei Nik described him as a basiji (a member of the paramilitary militia, though here perhaps intended as an honorific identifying loyalty and service to the regime) who had “over 40 years of experience in scientific research.”
According to Hamshahrionline, Fakhrizadeh worked closely with Hassan Tehrani Moqqadam, the creator of Iran’s ballistic missile program, who died in 2011 in an explosion at a military base in Iran. Early in 2020, Tehran Bureau mapped the assets of the Tehrani Moqaddam family.
Unlike the general public, who were oblivious to his existence, Fakhrizadeh was well known to foreign intelligence organizations, who saw him as the prospective father of the ever-feared, still-unrealized “Iranian bomb.” A series of gossipy videos about him of uncertain origin were posted to a YouTube channel between 2012 and 2014; one video from six years ago names his sons and states that he owns a villa in Absard. He was en route to that residence when he was assassinated in November.
Before his assassination, there were only a handful of mentions of Fakhrizadeh in Iranian media. One ISNA story dated June 15, 2001, mentions him by name and says he would be speaking about the “threats of modern war” at Imam Hossein University. Another item, from the Mehr News Agency on February 17, 2013, is a brief one that quotes a Jerusalem Post story claiming that an individual named “Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Mahabadi” was present in North Korea to witness a nuclear test. The Mehr item downplayed the situation, stating, “Zionist media have not revealed the identity of their [anonymous] diplomatic sources but have gone so far as to say that Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is the father of Iran’s nuclear activities.”
There is only one publicly available, official, decent-quality photo of Fakhrizadeh, taken at a meeting between Cognitive Sciences and Technologies Council researchers and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on January 23, 2019. The photo has been removed from the supreme leader’s website since Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, but a copy of it is still accessible on the website of Iran’s National Elites Foundation.
Fakhrizadeh’s Business Interests
While Fakhrizadeh’s scientific career is shrouded in secrecy, records of his business activities are publicly accessible. They show Fakhrizadeh founded two companies in his lifetime:
- Fakhr Imen Sharq (aka Fakhr Imen Technical Group, now Fakhr Imen Sayna)
Founded on May 27, 2003, the company’s articles of incorporation state that it was created to “install surveillance cameras and sensors.” Public records show that within a year of its establishment Fakhrizadeh’s wife, Sediqeh Qassemi, replaced him on the board of directors. The other board members are Fakhrizadeh’s three sons.
A look at the history of changes to the company’s website via the Wayback Machine shows that, over the years, the company has received lucrative surveillance system installations contracts, including ones from Shahid Beheshti University, the IRGC’s Qods Aviation Industry Company, the Presidential Office, Pars Online (ISP), and Iraq’s Shia Pilgrimage sites.
Fakhr Imen Sharq was rebranded in 2020 when it became Fakhr Imen Sayna.
- Parsian Asr Arvin
Founded on December 20, 2015, Parsian Asr Arvin was created to “design, consult, supervise, manufacture, and industrially produce regulated material and substances,” conduct “import-export,” “offer customs services,” and “transfer know-how and technology” to and from Iran. In the past, companies sanctioned for importing material related to Iran’s nuclear program used similar language in their articles of incorporation. For example, the SDN-listed Tamin Kalaye Sabz Aras describes its activities as “import-export of any and all products, obtaining loans and lines of credit from banks and financial institutions, participating in private and government tenders, establishing domestic or international branches and joint ventures with individuals and legal entities.”
- Parsian Asr Arvin went into dissolution on April 17, 2018.
Mrs. Fakhrizadeh and Her Sons
Unlike the wives of many other Islamic Republic officials and commanders, Sediqeh Qassemi isn’t invisible. As noted above, she replaced her husband on the board of directors of Fakhr Imen Sharq, and she has chaired its board chairman for over a decade.
The Fakharizasdeh family’s main business is conducted under Sayna Holding, which, according to its Linkedin company profile, specializes in “Security Systems, Data Centers, Network Security, VoIP, Digital Terminals, and web designing.”
Sayna Holding controls eight companies that operate in a variety of fields from accounting and IT to agriculture, surveillance technology, and oil and gas. The Sayna subsidiaries are:
- Fakhr Imen Sayna (formerly Fakhr Imen Sharq, aka Fakhr Imen Technical Group)
As previously described, this surveillance-systems installation firm, founded in 2003, changed its name from Fakhr Imen Sharq to Fakhr Imen Sayna in 2020.
All three Fakhrizadeh sons have been involved with this company over the years. Mohammad Mehdi has been its CEO and a board member, Hamed a CEO and vice chairman, and Hani owns shares in the company.
Established on February 13, 2006, Rayan Afzar Hasib is an accounting firm that also designs accounting systems and produces financial management software.
Hani Fakhrizadeh is a former board member, and Mohammad Mehdi Fakhrizadeh is a former board chairman. The brothers are no longer on the board, but the company is listed at the same address as various other Fakhrizadeh family businesses and on Sayna Holding’s LinkedIn page.
- Novin Pardazeshgaran Sayna (NOPAS)
Established on November 13, 2007, this company was formed to deliver computer repairs and services, imports, and sales. According to its Linkedin page, it now offers “computer network and data-center services.”
Public records show Mohammad Mehdi Fakhrizadeh, aka Mahdi Fakhrizadeh, has been the CEO and chairman of the company’s board of directors since its establishment. Hamed Fakhrizadeh was an early board member and Hani Fakhrizadeh is a current board member in the company.
- Ertebat Afarinan Sayna
Established on May 22, 2013, this company’s articles of association state that it “designs power and telecommunication equipment, VOIP, central, paging, audio-visual systems, and RFID.”
Mohammad Mehdi Fakhrizadeh chairs the board of directors, of which his younger brother Hani is also a member.
Established on June 15, 2011, Dadeh Negar specializes in “programming, website maintenance, hardware sales, computer network maintenance, e-commerce, import-export of all legal products.”
Mohammad Mehdi Fakhrizadeh is Dadeh Negar’s board chairman and his brothers, Hamed and Hani, are board members.
- Petro Sayna Mehr Kish
Established on Kish Island, a tax haven, in 2015, this company specializes in the import of oil, gas, and petrochemical equipment and the import-export of oil, gas, and petrochemical products and by-products; its articles of incorporation also make a vague reference to “maritime and land transportation.” Mrs. Fakhrizadeh serves on the company board along with her youngest son, Hani, who is also the CEO.
- Tadbir Andishan Sayna (dba Setsho)
Established on August 29, 2016, Tadbir Andishan Sayna’s articles of incorporation say it specializes in “import-exports, e-commerce, obtaining loans and lines of credit from domestic and international financial institutions.” While this vague description hardly clarifies what the company actually does, archived screenshots of the company’s website, which has been suspended, reveal that it went by the name Setsho and sold clothing and accessories.
The only Fakhrizadeh directly involved with this company is Hani, who is its board chairman.
- Noavaran Kesht-o- Sanat Sayna
Established on September 12, 2017, this agricultural company does everything from fertilizer and pesticide import-export to land leveling, operating plant and flower nurseries, and participating in tenders.
Mohammad Mehdi is the Noavaran board chairman, while his brother Hamed is the CEO and vice-chairman.
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