THE CHANGE AT THE DEPRIVED FOUNDATION A CONCESSION TO KHATAMI?
PARIS 23rd July (IPS) Why did the ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i waited until Thursday 22nd July to officially announce the appointment of Mr. Mohammad Forouzandeh, 46, as the new Head of the sprawling Deprived Foundation, better known as the Bonyad Janbazan va Mostaz'afan (BJM), replacing the controversial and influential Mr. Mohsen Rafiq-Doust?
Considering the fact the change was an open secret for the past two months, some observers speculated that the timing of the announcement may have been chosen in order to make it seen as a concession from the conservatives to the reformists, particularly to the President, badly run down during past two weeks by the conservatives.
Some foreign experts and Iranian observers speculated that with Mr. Rafiq-Doust unseated, it is one of the conservative's important strongholds that gets out of their hands.
A former Defence Minister under the ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mr. Forouzandeh, a military man by formation, has been named for five years by the leader at the helm of an organisation turned by its previous Chairman, Mr Rafiq-Doust, into the Islamic State's richest and most dynamic financial empire, often dubbed as state into State, with assets estimated at "hundreds of millions" of US dollars.
After the Islamic revolution of 1979, the Bonyad was created to manage all the assets, factories, businesses, properties, hotels, banks, funds etc. left by their owners who had fled the revolution and its killing squads.
According to some estimates, the BJM more than 600 industrial and economic units, hotels, tourist and agricultural and commercial projects, possessing, with other Foundations, between 20 to 30 per cent of the nation's GNP that not accounted for in the Government's GNP estimates.
Like other organisations controlled by the leader, not only the BJM's accounts can not be controlled by the Government nor the Majles (parliament), but has the rare privilege to get the green back at the very special rate of 70 Rials per dollar, while the official rate is 3000 and sells at the free market between 8000 to 9000 Rials.
It is thanks to this exception that the BJM can crush all competitors, both public and private and stops government or the private sector to start projects that does not pleases the Foundation's boss. It is also because of the same exception that the BMJ was not paying any taxes to the Government. "The Bonyad pays taxes, but to it's Chairman", the Iranian would say sarcastically.
However, the BJM is the centre of wide criticism from various conservatives and government circles because of the widespread corruption associated with its Chairman, Mr. Rafiq-Doust.
Involved with his brother Morteza and a fellow named Fazel Khodadad in a 4 to 7 billions US dollars embezzlement case, Mr. Rafiq-Doust escape trial thanks to the intervention of the leader, but Morteza got a 10 years imprisonment while Mr. Khodadad was executed.
But the importance of the this Foundation lies elsewhere:
With offices in several countries, the Deprived Foundation has close collaboration with the Intelligence Ministry, the Revolutionary Guard's special Qods Unit and the Voice and Visage (Radio and Television) of the Islamic Republic as the main provider of secret funds for the regime's terrorist operations against Iranian dissidents abroad and in supporting financially islamist terrorist organisations like the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, some Egyptian terrorist groups, the Shi'ite rebellion in the Persian Gulf Emirate of Bahrain etc.
Iranian observers and analysts are not sure whether by ousting Mr. Rafiq-Doust from this important organisation at this peculiar moment Mr. Khameneh'i wants to bring reforms to the BJM, to put some order in the house, stopping personal abuses and bring under tight and clear control it's huge and profitable accountability, to place it under the control of the Government or just to please Mr. Khatami who had always insisted on the removal of Mr. Radiq-Doust. ENDS BONYAD 2379923