EghtesadOnline: In separate interviews, Iran’s deputy judiciary chief and the industries minister have delivered updates on an ongoing case in regard to illicit car imports, with the former announcing that four suspects from the ministry have been arrested over the case.
“Five individuals inside the industries ministry have been indicted as suspects linked with the case, four of them currently are held in custody,” Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei was quoted as saying by IRNA on Monday.
He further commented that these people included current and former ministry employees.
According to him, two of the detainees have been high-ranking officials with Trade Promotion Organization which works under the ministry’s supervision. One of the other people arrested over the case is the developer of the online auto import registration website who was recently fired, Financial Tribune reported.
Industries Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari appeared on a live show broadcast on national TV on Tuesday, shedding light on the procedures involved in investigations, while making new announcements about the scandal.
Shariatmadari presented a list comprised of 100 individuals and firms who are allegedly culprits in the case of unlawful car imports by “infiltrating the [online] registration system” and tampering with import documents.
“The list includes illegally registered online permits for 6,481 cars, 1,934 of which have already entered the market,” he said.
Shariatmadari referred to the data gathered by Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration which indicate that the clearance procedures for 4,547 vehicles among the overall number have been halted.
He stated that authorities have managed to prevent the issuance of registration plates to 300 cars of the illicitly imported goods.
According to the minister, the government body initiated the probe on November 30, 2017.
He mentioned the formal requests written to various entities, asking them to take proper measures in investigating the case.
“On January 15, we sent the perpetrators’ IP list to the Intelligence Ministry to take due steps; on February 20, we wrote a follow-up letter, asking one more time; and on April 11, a third one was sent,” said the minister.
He referred to another February 14 correspondence with the Customs Administration and the Tazirat Organization (a judiciary-affiliated entity that monitors trading crimes), discussing the same issue.
Roots of the Story
The case dates back to when the government shut down the online auto imports registration website for seven months (reopened by the end of 2017) announcing that online permits will not be issued until car import rules are revised.
The period started in June 2017 when the online auto import registration website locally known as Sabtaresh was shut down by authorities. 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.
However, it aroused a storm of controversy when during the seven-month “total shutdown” hundreds of online permits were issued and later cars entered the country easily and hit the roads.
Following this dramatic sequence of events, President Hassan Rouhani ordered several state bodies to launch a probe into the corruption allegations, rumored to run deep into the system.