EghtesadOnline: President Hassan Rouhani has issued a two-week ultimatum to a string of government bodies to crack down on corrupt circles which have brought cars into Iran through illicit means and had the vehicles cleared from customs warehouses by forgery.
A litany of corruption allegations has rattled Iran’s auto market as reports of misconduct piled up and prompted the president himself to demand a full-scale and speedy inquiry into the matter.
To spearhead a transparency campaign and alleviate public concerns, Rouhani issued an official statement on Saturday, ordering several state bodies to investigate a possible ploy by “government employees, one computer company and a number of importers” to obtain clearance from the customs administration through illicit channels for several hundreds of vehicles brought into Iran.
In the face of economic hardships and chaotic markets, President Rouhani and his officials have initiated a transparency campaign aimed at bringing some solace to panicked citizens who have been baffled by skyrocketing prices and the shrinking value of the local currency, Financial Tribune reported.
The saga of illegally imported vehicles has its roots in an extended period of time when government halted online auto import registration for seven months on the pretext of overhauling regulations related to the sector.
The period started in June 2017 when the online auto import registration website locally known as Sabtaresh was shut down by authorities until the administration introduced new auto-import rules later in December of the same year.
By law, after acquiring import permits from the Industries Ministry, local firms must also register online with the Trade Promotion Organization separately for every single unit.
Sabtaresh was closed from summer until winter, with many vehicles stuck in the warehouses of Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.
There have been allegations that thousands of cars have entered the country and hit the roads during the months that vehicles were neither imported nor were lawfully cleared out of customs.
Reports of the misconduct have gained more ground and drawn reactions from several officials until the president launched an anti-corruption crackdown which involves several government bodies pooling forces to probe into the case.
Rouhani’s statement reads, “According to the Ministry of Intelligence’s report, the violation has been committed via illegal order registrations, leading to disruptions in the auto market, escalating car imports and the extensive outflow of foreign currency depleting the national reserves.”
The unlawful practice has “triggered false demand for vehicles, leading to exponential price increases and illegitimate profits as well as exploitation by intermediaries.”
Earlier in the week, Industries Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari handed in a 20-page long report personally to the president. According to the president’s statement, the ministerial report details the breach of law, explaining that the offenders have manipulated order registry dates, falsified the name of the commodity registered and changed the time and method of payment.
Rouhani further stated that the report suggests that a corrupt coordinated circle inside the Industries Ministry, in cahoots with a number of car importers and several computer specialists from the company charged with the maintenance of Sabtaresh teamed up to bring an undisclosed number of vehicles into Iran without going through the proper channels.
The guilty parties, either ministry insiders, the computer company or car importers, have not been identified in the presidential statement.
The president has called on several government bodies to hold the culprits accountable. Demands by Rouhani are directed at his legal deputy, the ministers of justice, economy and industries, and First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri and Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani.
The minister in charge of the scandal-tainted government body issued a response to the president’s announcement on Sunday, thanking him for his “unyielding approach” in his crackdown on possible government corruption.