DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian authorities have arrested 67 people in a drive against financial crime, the judiciary said on Sunday, as the country faces renewed U.S. sanctions and a public outcry against profiteering and corruption.
Special Islamic revolutionary courts were being set up to try suspects quickly after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Saturday for “swift and just” legal action to confront an “economic war” by foreign enemies, state television quoted a judiciary spokesman as saying.
The rial currency has lost about half of its value since April over worries about the sanctions, with heavy demand for dollars among ordinary Iranians trying to protect their savings.
The cost of living has also soared, sparking sporadic demonstrations against profiteering and corruption, with many protesters chanting anti-government slogans.
“Sixty seven suspects have been arrested, some of whom were released on bail, and more than 100 people including government employees and officials, as well as private employees and others have been given travel bans,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said in remarks carried by state television.
The central bank and the judiciary have blamed “enemies” for the fall of the currency and a rapid rise in the price of gold coins.
Those arrested included a former central bank deputy, and some faced charges carrying the death penalty, the judiciary said.
The judiciary has suggested that arch-foes the United States and Israel, as well as regional rival Saudi Arabia and government opponents living in exile, are fomenting the unrest and waging an economic war to destabilize Iran.
In May the United States pulled out of a 2015 deal between world powers and Tehran under which international sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
Washington this week reimposed sanctions on Iran’s purchase of U.S. dollars, its trade in gold and precious metals and its dealings with metals, coal and industrial-related software, and it is planning to impose heavier sanctions in November aimed at Iran’s oil sector.
Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Richard Balmforth