Amid a falling currency and stagnating economy, Iran has hanged the “Sultan of Coins,” Vahid Mazloumin, for hoarding nearly two tons of gold coins. Mazloumin, aged 58 years old, had reportedly amassed the coins to manipulate gold and currency prices. Since the Iranian economy is under stress, accumulating too much gold is seen as a crime by the authorities, as it would create an artificial shortage of the coins and raise the value of gold.
It was in July that Mazloumin and his accomplice Mohammad Ismail were arrested by the Iranian authorities. In August, a judicial request was sent to the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for setting up courts to deal with people involved in financial crimes.
The Ayatollah approved the request, after which several people have been sentenced to death. The trials were broadcast live on television in a bid to let the public know that people engaging in financial manipulation will not be tolerated.
When Mazloumin was brought to court, his defense claimed innocence on grounds that the Iranian central bank had not set any limit in the number of gold coins a citizen can possess. However, the argument did not hold and the “Sultan” and his accomplice were awarded the death sentence.
The execution was celebrated by local media, with the state TV supervised Jam-e Jam daily claiming that the hanging sends a “clear message” to people engaged in “economic disruption.” Kayhan Daily took a more extreme position and asked for more trials so that the officials found to be involved in such financial corruption can be tried. Meanwhile, several organizations have come out against the hanging, claiming that it goes against international norms of basic human rights.
“Use of the death penalty is appalling under any circumstances, but it is even more horrific given that these men were convicted after a grossly unfair show trial that was broadcast on state television. The shocking manner in which their trial was fast-tracked through Iran’s judicial system without allowing them the chance of a proper appeal is yet another example of the brazen disregard the Iranian authorities have for defendants’ basic due process rights,” Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research and Advocacy Director, said in a statement (Amnesty).
Gold, economy, and unemployment
The U.S. imposed sanctions on trade with Iran after Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal agreement in May. Since then, Iran’s currency and economy have been on a free fall. As a consequence, the demand for gold coins has sharply increased, with many investors buying the coins to counter inflation.
The sanctions have started to cause massive unemployment in Iran. Many businesses have fired their workers to keep costs under control, while several others have suspended or completely shut down their operations. With Tehran still at loggerheads with the U.S., business owners are pessimistic about the future of the economy.
“If we believe that the country’s economic situation was the main driver for the recent protests and that an inflation rate of 10 percent and an unemployment rate of 12 percent caused the protests, we cannot imagine the intensity of reactions caused by the sharp rise of inflation rate and unemployment,” a parliamentary report had warned in September (News18).
Youth unemployment is already at 25 percent. Among educated youths, the unemployment rate is said to be hitting 50 percent. In a country where 60 percent of the 80 million people are under the age of 30, this essentially points to a chaotic time ahead for the Iranian regime.