Iranian billionaire hanged “without warning” over £1.5bn fraud (another fraudster escaped to Canada though)

Mahafarid Amir Khosravi

The Iranian government has executed a billionaire businessman at the heart of a £1.5bn state bank scam, state television has reported.

Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, also known as Amir Mansour Aria, was hanged at Evin prison, north of the capital Tehran, after Iran’s supreme court upheld his death sentence.

The fraud, believed to be the country’s biggest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, involved using forged documents to get credit at one of Iran’s top financial insitutions, Bank Saderat, to purchase assets, including state-owned companies such as major steel producer Khuzestan Steel Co.

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His business empire included 35 companies and the fraud began in 2007, according the Iranian media reports. A total of 39 defendants were convicted in the case, with four receiving death sentences, two getting life sentences and the rest 25 years behind bars.

The trials raised questions about corruption at senior levels in Iran’s tightly controlled economy during the administration of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Khosravi’s lawyer, Gholam Ali Riahi, was quoted as saying his client had been put to death without any notice.

He said: “I had not been informed about execution of my client. All the assets of my client are at the disposal of the prosecutor’s office.”

Mahmoud Reza Khavari, former head of Bank Melli, another major Iranian bank, escaped to Canada in 2011 after he resigned over the case.

He faces charges over the case in Iran and remains on the Islamic Republic’s wanted list. Khavari previously admitted that his bank partially was involved in the fraud, but has maintained his innocence.