Iran hung on the gallows Wednesday two citizens accused of manipulating the local currency market and smuggling currency, according to the state news agency, IRNA. The executions of Vahid Mazlumin and his alleged accomplice, Mohammad-Esmaeil Qasemi, the first to occur for this reason, attempt to send a powerful message to those who encourage speculation and the black market at a very delicate time for the Iranian economy because of U.S. sanctions.
Since it became clear earlier this year that the US was going to pull out of the nuclear treaty and reimpose the sanctions it lifted after signing it in 2015, the Tehran government has faced severe depreciation of the Iranian currency, the rial, and an aggravation of the economic crisis. At the same time as they adopted measures to curb this drift, including the establishment of official exchange rates, warnings were issued against speculation.
Mazlumin, 58, a businessman known as the King of gold coins, was arrested along with Qasemi and a dozen others last July after the rial collapsed. The decision to bring them before the Islamic Revolutionary Court, which deals with national security matters, gives an idea of how seriously the authorities took the case and their willingness to make it an example.
They have been accused of “altering the economy, [the price of] foreign currency and the monetary system” through “illegal sales and smuggling of foreign currency and foreign currency”. According to reports in the Iranian media, their activities created major fluctuations in both markets and provided them with juicy profits.
The speed with which the trial has proceeded and the speed with which the sentence has been executed are once again a source of concern for human rights organizations. As of early October, Iran had executed at least 223 people for a variety of reasons, including people who were minors when they committed the crimes and others for political reasons, according to the Iran Human Rights Monitor.
Since the summer, however, the Iranian government has managed to curb currency market fluctuations and, despite recent sanctions against the export of oil (its main source of revenue), has committed itself to strengthening the rial.
It seems that the authorities have wanted to be proactive in the face of unrest among Iranians over economic hardship. “In recent months, the economic situation and instability in the Forex [currency market] have caused popular discontent,” admits the IRNA memo.