How the late president established a corrupt system that benefits elite clans, including his own
The late statesman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was both a founder and a victim of the kleptocratic system at the heart of the Islamic Republic. A shrewd strategist who was at once a man of the people and a ruthless elitist, his presidency, from 1989 to 1997, gave rise to the clannish power networks and corrupt institutions that paralyze Iran’s economy.
The lack of comprehensive public business records from the Rafsanjani era make tracing his family’s role in Iran’s economy difficult, but Rafsanjani was a dedicated diary keeper and one of the few IRI officials to publish annual memoirs until his suspicious death in 2017.
These memoirs, augmented by our research into current business records and whistleblower interviews, offer a wealth of information about his relationship with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other top decision makers, family scandals, and watershed events that took place behind closed doors and were never shared with the nation.
They also paint a picture of a man who never traveled abroad without several, if not all, members of his family in tow. Rafsanjani unabashedly appointed his close relatives to various positions of power, helped them secure prestigious jobs, and sent them abroad to study. He doled out public funds to whomever he pleased: regime officials, his own family members, and the families of known terrorists like Anis Naccache, who led a failed attempt to assassinate Shapour Bakhtiar, Iran’s last prime minister before the Islamist takeover. They also show a man who sent his children to negotiate with various countries on behalf of Iran instead of using the foreign service apparatus created specifically for this task.
Tehran Bureau provides an in-depth look at the Rafsanjani family’s business interests. In part one of this series, we examine the network of Mohsen Hashemi, Rafsanjani’s oldest son, who has held prestigious posts in Tehran’s municipal administration, national transport, and the Expediency Council.
Overview: The Rafsanjani Children
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his wife of almost six decades, Efat Marashi, had five children: Fatemeh (now 60), Mohsen (59), Faezeh (58), Mehdi (51), and Yaser (50).
All five of the Rafsanjani children are involved in Daftar Nashr Maaref Enqelab (aka Office of Publishing Revolution Learnings), a publishing house dedicated to the works of Rafsanjani and works on Rafsanjani.
- Mohsen Hashemi served as CEO and board chairman from 2004 to 2013
- Mehdi Hashemi served as vice chairman from 2004 to 2013
- Yaser Hashemi served as a board member and vice chairman from 2004 to 2013
- Fatemeh Hashemi served as a board member from 2004 to 2013
- Faezeh Hashemi served as a board member from 2009 to 2013
- Emad Hashemi, son of Mohsen Hashemi, served as CEO in 2013
Official information about Daftar Nashr Maaref Enqelab’s board has not been updated since 2013.
Rafsanjani’s oldest son, Mohsen, is married to Azam Hashempour1 and has three sons: Emad, Ehsan, and Alireza. Emad is married to Zahra Seyyed Rouhani2, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s great-granddaughter.
Mohsen, who holds a degree in mechanical engineering from a Canadian university, was involved in the IRGC missile project for at least four years, based on his September 2011 interview with Khabaronline.
At the age of 28, while his father was president, Mohsen became the head of the Presidential Office of Inspections, holding this position for eight years. When his father became the head of the Expediency Council, Mohsen became his chief of staff. He also served as Azad University’s construction deputy for four years until, in 2017, he won a seat in the 5th Tehran City Council and became its chairman. Mohsen Hashemi is the head of the central council of the Executives of Construction Party (ECP), which was founded by former cabinet members and friends of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in 1996.
Mohsen Hashemi has been on the board of several companies including:
1. Refah Cultural Bonyad (linked to Mohsen Rafiqdoust) as a board member since 2007.
2. Tehran Metro Company as CEO, board chairman, and vice chairman for a decade (2003–2013) until he was replaced with Habibollah Bourbour.
3. Tehran Metro Station Complexes Development Co as a board member.
4. Iran Rail Association as board chairman.
5. Tehran Urban and Suburban Railway Operation (TUSRO) as board chairman and vice chairman until 2013. Other TUSRO board members who served alongside Mohsen include:
- Habil Darvishi (board chairman), who was also the CEO of the Tehran Metro Company. He went on to become the CEO of Mofid Economic Group (EIKO) and then the CEO of the Police Co-operative Foundation.
- Jafar Rabiei (board member), who has ties to companies like Rasaneh Mehr Vatan (BTS), Kowsar Markazi Credit Institute (BTB), Ezam Management and Operation Co. (Ezam Group, Abbas Iravani3), and Parsian Oil and Gas Development (Ghadir Investment, Armed Forces).
Rabiei is the CEO of the US Treasury–sanctioned Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Co (PGPIC) and deputy of projects and planning for the Defense Industries Organization (Armed Forces). He had a stint at the Expediency Council, and there were rumors that he was a contender for oil minister in Ebrahim Raisi’s administration.
- Mohammad Ahmadi Bafandeh (board member), a graduate of Imam Hussein University, an IRGC military academy. Bafandeh has ties to various Bonyad-owned entities such as Kowsar Agricultural Investment Co (BS) and Chemi Darou Kowsar (BS), Metra Consulting Engineers (BTS), and Iran Marine Service (Ghadir Investment). Bafandeh has previously been the mayor of Qom and Tehran’s district 1.
- Ali Mohammad Qoliha (CEO, board member), son-in-law of eulogist Mansour Arzi’s brother. Arzi is close to the supreme leader and has trained many of the Islamic Republic’s hardline eulogists including Mahmoud Karimi, who in 2014 brandished a gun and shot a few rounds during a road rage incident. ْQoliha previously had positions on the board of SAIPA, a carmaker with strong ties to BTS. He also enjoys close ties with Majles speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. According to reports, Qalibaf was set to replace his executive deputy in the Majles, Hamid Aslani4, with Qoliha. However, because of Qalibaf’s secretive appointments and dismissals, it is not clear whether or not he was eventually appointed to a parliamentary position. Qalibaf did, however, put Qoliha in charge of Ebrahim Raisi’s inauguration ceremony.
6. Tamadon Azad Pars Tourism Development Co.
Mohsen was chairman of this company’s founding board and represented the interests of Azad Pasargad Development Co. on its board of directors. Both of these companies are Azad University subsidiaries.
Azad Pasargad Development’s articles of incorporation describe it as an “investment company” that “manages factories in any industrial sector” as well as participating in the “purchase, sales, packaging and distribution of all legal products,” “ investment in foreign and domestic companies” and “managing, designing, supervising and implementing construction projects, land surveying, road construction and dam construction.”
Established on May 8, 2016, Tamadon Azad Pars is involved in “investment, executing and operating projects [such as] tourism, recreational and hospitality facilities and any other activity related to tourism, raising capital and partnership with any and all foreign and domestic individuals and entities in the tourism sector . . . including hotels, hospitality centers, tourism, recreational, sports, cultural, historical, educational and business complexes,” “operating domestic and international tours via air, ground or sea,” and “partnering with production and economic units and investment in any and all domestic and international companies.”
Other Tamadon Azad Pars board members include:
- Mohammad Mostafa Doa-Gouei (vice chairman), who has been affiliated with SAIPA Sports Club, a multisport club based in Tehran and Karaj that owns a football team and has links to members of the Qalibaf network. He has also served on the board of bank subsidiaries such as Mellat Leasing (Bank Mellat subsidiary), Rahbaran Hadaf Arman (Bank Tose Saderat), and Dey Leasing (Bank Dey).
- Farbod Komaei (board member), who is also on the board of Azad Pasargad Development and represents the interests of ANA News Agency, which belongs to Islamic Azad University. Komaei is also the board chairman of a transportation company called Ofoq Etemad Kala Shahr-e Kord, a Bonyad Maskan subsidiary. Bonyad Maskan is one of the several bonyads overseen by the office of the supreme leader.
- Karim Eqbal Behbahani (alt inspector), who has been an inspector in over 125 companies in fields including industrial, petrochemical, marine services, and agriculture.
Of Mohsen Hashemi’s three sons, Alireza Hashemi Behramani has been in Switzerland since at least 2015 and is currently conducting thesis research at the University of Geneva, according to its website. Alireza and his father have two companies registered in France: Rubis D’Evian (real estate) and Rubis De Maxilly (construction and real estate). Alireza and his uncle Yaser founded another company in France in 2017, SCCV Rubis.
Alireza was the board chairman of a company called Arvin Sazan Sadid in 2007, which according to its articles of incorporation was a construction contractor with activities ranging from building bridges, tunnels, and dams to street asphalt repairs, restoration of buildings and green spaces, piping (water, sewage, gas), import-export, and other trade activities. His fellow board members are the Jannatian family, who own the Omran Sarir International Co.
The patriarch of the family, Mahmoud Jannatian, is the former deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI); he was placed on the EU sanctions list in 2008 and removed in 2015. Jannatian allegedly oversaw the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.
Mohsen’s oldest son, Emad, is the CEO of Daftar Nashr Maaref Enqelab (see above) and recently joined the board of Abnieh Gostar Karafarin, a Karafarin Bank (Entrepreneur’s Bank) subsidiary. EIKO is the majority shareholder in Karafarin Bank.
Abnieh Gostar Karafarin is an investment company that “does any and all legal trade transactions, construction contracting of buildings, industrial, commercial, administrative and residential complexes inside the country and abroad . . . imports construction material and anything else necessary for the company’s activity from abroad,” according to its articles of incorporation.
Mohsen’s youngest son, Ehsan, is 24 years old and does not appear to be involved in the family’s business activities.
- Azam’s mother is Mahin Salari, who is the daughter of Azra Marashi, sister of Rafsanjani’s widow, Efat Marashi. Azam’s father is Ali Hashempour.
- Zahra is the daughter of Nafiseh Eshraqi and Kazem Seyyed Rouhani. She is the granddaughter of Seyyed Mohammad Sadeq Rouhani, a grand ayatollah, whose office released a statement casting doubt on the legality of the wedding. Kazem Seyyed Rouhani is also a “bad grad,” according to SAVAK files.
- Abbas Iravani is a businessman who was tried in 2019 for bribery, corruption, and smuggling 764 million dollars in goods. In court, Iravani claimed that IRGC intelligence had been trying to strong-arm him into turning over his assets to the Islamic Republic for years and that he had shown extreme bravery in bypassing sanctions. Iravani was originally charged with “corruption on earth,” which carries a death sentence, but his indictment was changed to the lesser charge of “disruption of the economy,” according to Mehr News Agency. There has been no movement on his sentencing despite the court proceedings having come to an end.
- Aslani, who is connected to MMC/Mahan Air, is currently said to be the head of Majlis Herasat.
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