Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, secretly runs a financial empire that would give the Shah a run for his money. The business interests of Khamenei’s little-known organization, called Setad, include a dizzying array of properties, oil and gas holdings, telecommunications, even ostrich farming. Reuters estimates that Setad oversees assets worth $95 billion.The first part of an in-depth Reuters investigation shows that Setad habitually confiscates property from ordinary Iranians, including minorities like Baha’is, auctions it off and pockets the proceeds. It owns or invests in farms, energy businesses, stores, and much else. It intimidates Iranians who resist Setad’s efforts to take over their personal assets. Court orders support these shady dealings.A “small part” of Setad’s operations are philanthropic.
When Khomeini, the first supreme leader, set in motion the creation of Setad, it was only supposed to manage and sell properties “without owners” and direct much of the proceeds to charity. Setad was to use the funds to assist war veterans, war widows “and the downtrodden.” According to one of its co-founders, Setad was to operate for no more than two years. […]A complete picture of Setad’s spending and income isn’t possible. Its books are off limits even to Iran’s legislative branch. In 2008, the Iranian Parliament voted to prohibit itself from monitoring organizations that the supreme leader controls, except with his permission. […]All told, Reuters was able to identify about $95 billion in property and corporate assets controlled by Setad. That amount is roughly 40 percent bigger than the country’s total oil exports last year. It also surpasses independent historians’ estimates of the late shah’s wealth.
Definitely read the whole thing and look out for parts two and three of the story. A full picture of how Iran’s top leadership operates is not complete without an understanding of how the Ayatollah maintains his upper hand in the society. Fascinating stuff from Reuters.[Flame image courtesy of Shutterstock. Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.]