Iran executes men for hoarding gold coins amid currency crisis – By Kim Hjelmgaard (usatoday.com) / Nov 15 2018
Iran executed two currency traders for allegedly hoarding gold coins and attempting to manipulate prices at a time when the country’s economy is reeling from re-imposed U.S. sanctions following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from a nuclear deal, authorities said this week.
Vahid Mazloumin and Mohammad Esmail Ghasemi were convicted of “spreading corruption on Earth” and making “illegal deals” that destabilized currency markets, state-run IRNA news agency reported late Wednesday.
Both men were executed by hanging.
Mazloumin, 58, dubbed by Iranian media as the “Sultan of Coins,” was arrested in July as part of a sweeping crackdown by Tehran on unauthorized deals and smuggling. He had two tons of gold coins in his possession. Ghasemi was his accomplice.
Iranians have stocked up on gold coins and other safe-haven investments as the local rial currency has plummeted in the wake of Trump’s May withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. The Iranian rial has plunged to approximately 135,000 to the dollar from last year’s rate of around 40,500.
Iranian authorities have tried to stabilize currency prices by introducing a single official dollar exchange rate, but that has not stopped a parallel black-market rate.
The U.S. clampdown that restricts Iran’s access to the international banking system and limits its ability to export products from its lucrative energy industry will trigger an economic recession in the nation next year, according to the International Monetary Fund. Iran already suffers from persistently high inflation and unemployment.
The sanctions have also made it harder for Iranians to acquire some essential medicines and supplies, although Washington insists the sanctions do not target humanitarian goods. Spiraling living costs have occasionally led to protests.
Amnesty International said that dozens of other people have also been sentenced to prison terms after convictions on similar charges faced by Mazloumin and Ghasemi.
It said Iran uses special courts that are unfair because defendants are denied access to lawyers and the right to appeal. “With these abhorrent executions the Iranian authorities have flagrantly violated international law and once again displayed their shameless disregard for the right to life,” the group said in a statement.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei established the special courts to deal with crimes involving suspected financial corruption in August.
“Spreading corruption on Earth” is the highest crime under Iran’s Islamic laws and it carries a mandatory death sentence. Iran’s judiciary appears to apply the law broadly. For example, several environmental activists arrested in Iran earlier this year over espionage allegations have been charged with the crime.