Iran sentences ex-central bank chief to 10 years in prison

October 16, 2021 GMT

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A court sentenced the former governor of Iran’s central bank to 10 years in prison for violating the country’s currency system, a judiciary spokesperson said Saturday.

Besides violating the currency system, Valliollah Seif also had a role in smuggling foreign currency, judiciary spokesman Zabihollah Khodaeian told state TV.

Ahmad Araghchi, a then-deputy to Seif, was sentenced to eight years on the same charges, Khodaeian said. Eight others were also sentenced to various prison terms, he said. All of the defendants have the right to appeal.

Seif was governor of Iran’s central bank for five years until 2018 under former President Hassan Rouhani. Araghchi was his deputy from 2017 to 2018.

State TV said they were involved in violations of the currency market in 2016, a time when the Iranian rial sustained considerable losses in value against major foreign currencies.

The defendants illegally injected $160 million and 20 million euros into the market, state TV said.

The rial exchange rate was at 39,000 to $1 in 2017 at the beginning of Araghchi’s time in office but it reached more than 110,000 to $1 by the time he was dismissed in 2018. The change partly coincided with severe U.S. sanctions imposed on Tehran.

The rial has tumbled from a rate of around 32,000 rials to $1 at the time of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers to around 27,000 rials to $1 in recent months. The currency unexpectedly rallied for some time after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear deal and reimpose crippling trade sanctions on Iran in 2018.

The sanctions have caused Iran’s oil exports, the country’s main source of income, to fall sharply.