Iranian banker reportedly in Canada amidst speculation

A property in Toronto’s upscale Bridal Path neighbourhood is “registered in Mr. Khavari’s name” and was “bought for $2,925,000 on July 30, 2007,” The Globe also reported.

The embezzlement is being called the largest of its kind in Iran and Khavari is the first official involved to have allegedly fled from the massive fraud case.

The embezzlement is being called the largest of its kind in Iran and Khavari is the first official involved to have allegedly fled from the massive fraud case.

In mid-September, a cabal of businessmen and bankers successfully embezzled $2.6 billion USD (28 trillion Rials) in what the New York Times has described as a “scheme to use forged letters of credit to acquire privatized government assets.”

Khavari is among 22 people being sought by Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, Iran’s Chief Prosecutor appointed to the case. The scandal centers around businessman Mah-Afarid Khosravi, who is accused of forging letters of credit from Bank Saderat, the country’s second-largest bank, Fars news agency has reported.

The forged documents were allegedly given to seven other banks, including Bank Melli, and were subsequently used to access credit in order to purchase a large state-owned steel company.

“It is in Mr. Khavari’s interest to come back to Iran to defend himself against the accusations,” Mohseni-Ejei told the Fars news agency.

Both Khavari and the managing director of Bank Saderat, Mohammad Jahromi, have sent resignation letters to the Iranian Economy Minister Shamsoddin Hosseini.

“Despite my follow-ups and contacting the intelligence ministry and judiciary for the arrest of the main culprits, the main backers of this corruption have publicly blamed Bank Saderat and its manager,” Jahromi said according to Fars news

In his letter, Khavari said he resigned to “respect public opinion.”

Morteza Abdolalian, an Iranian-Canadian blogger and board member at Canadian Journalists for Freedom of Expression (CJFE), said there is no news of Khavari from Canadian officials likely because of strict privacy laws. Abdolalian was sourced in the Globe’s article saying “this is a huge huge scandal in the history of my country.”

This is the home on Suncrest Drive in the Bridal Path neighbourhood that reports say is registered to Mr. Khavari.

“This guy has so many things to say.” Abdolalian told Salam Toronto. “He has a big story to speak about. If he feels he is innocent from financial embezzlement, I think it is in his interest to speak to the Canadian media.”

Not only is it an issue financial fraud, but also one of human rights, said Abdolalian.

“It’s the money of the (Iranian) people and their investments, their work, their capital,” he said. “So it’s a human rights issue too.”

Abdolalian thinks Khavari’s life would be in danger if he were to return to Iran and said he believes Canadian officials are already reviewing the case.

“One of my speculations is that he is perhaps being questioned by the Canadian government,” said Abdolalian.

Since Khavari is a Canadian citizen, deportation to Iran is unlikely, said international law professor at McGill University Payam Akhavan, adding that extradition is also out of the question.

“There is no extradition treaty with Iran, so this would be within the discretion of the relevant Minister,” said Akhavan. “There is usually no extradition where there is a risk of death penalty.”

“There is a UN Convention Against Corruption which could create certain obligations to extradite or prosecute officials for certain financial crimes,” said Akhavan, who was the first Legal Advisor to the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Tribunals for Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

“But it is not clear if it applies in this case,” said Akhavan, adding that Khavari’s links to Sepah Bank, Iran’s first state-owned bank, raise questions of his possible involvement in financing terrorist activities.

Last Tuesday, a man sitting in a vehicle parked on the driveway of the Suncrest Drive home said the residents of the property are not speaking to anyone. The man, who said he is “with the family,” did not confirm if the Khavari family owned the property but did acknowledge that he is aware of the accusations spreading in the media.

Canada’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade have yet to respond to Salam Toronto’s requests for information on the case.

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