Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, controls a business empire worth around $95 billion, according to an extensive investigation carried out by Reuters.
The vast sum exceeds the value of his oil-rich nation’s current annual petroleum exports. The organization, called Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam -or Setad for short- is one of the keys to the Iranian leader’s absolute power, and holds stakes in “nearly every sector of Iranian industry, including finance, oil, telecommunications, the production of birth-control pills and even ostrich farming,” according to Reuters.
And it has done so at the expense of the Iranian population. Writes Reuters: “Setad has built its empire on the systematic seizure of thousands of properties belonging to ordinary Iranians – members of religious minorities, Shi’ite Muslims, business people and Iranians living abroad.”
The organization was set up by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini shortly before his death in 1989, and was intended to manage and sell properties abandoned following the 1979 Islamic Revolution; but according to Reuters, “Under Khamenei, the organization has expanded its corporate holdings, buying stakes in dozens of Iranian companies, both private and public, with the stated goal of creating an Iranian conglomerate to boost the country’s economic growth.”
The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Setad, calling the organization “a massive network of front companies hiding assets on behalf of … Iran’s leadership.”
According to Reuters, “There is no evidence that Khamenei is tapping Setad to enrich himself. But Setad has empowered him. Through Setad, Khamenei has at his disposal financial resources whose value rivals the holdings of the shah, the Western-backed monarch who was overthrown in 1979.” See the full Reuters report here.