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Iran's Guards Demand Ownership Of Government Companies Against Debts

General Saeed Mohammad, head of Khatam ol-Anbia Construction Headquarters, the construction arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), said on Saturday [January 9] that the government would transfer ownership of some state-owned companies to Khatam ol-Anbia in lieu of debt.

Mohammad, who the Iranian media have touted as a possible candidate in June’s presidential election, said Khatam ol-Anbia had presented a list of suitable assets. He said on Saturday that Khatam ol-Anbia had already taken ownership of Sabalan Power Plant, part of the Khuzestan Steel Mill, and the Iranian Telecommunications Company to settle part of the government's debt.

In August, Mohammad claimed the government owed 500 trillion rials to Khatam ol-Anbia, equivalent today to around $2 billion. A few weeks ago, the Khatam ol-Anbia head said he had suggested the group take over agriculture ministry. “The underprivileged people in the villages need essential services more than at any other time,” he explained.

Mohammad on Saturday put government contracts awarded to Khatam ol-Anbia at 100 trillion rials annually, a sum outside the Iranian military budget. Many of these contracts do not face competition from the private sector.

Recently, former Industry Minister Behzad Nabavi said in an interview with Alef news website that Khatam ol-Anbia is one of four major holdings that together control 60 percent of Iran's national assets. He did not explain whether this figure was based on turnover, market capitalization or some other measure.

Although an annual contract figure of 100 trillion rials is over twice the budget of some ministries, it does not comprise Khatam ol-Anbia’s overall budget, which includes other development and military projects even outside Iran.

On December 23, IRGC-linked news agency Fars carried a picture gallery about the launching of an Iranian-made super tanker the previous day. The tanker, built by Khatam ol-Anbia’s Sadra Shipbuilding Company, had a capacity of 750,000 barrels and was the second Sadra-built company launched in recent months, Fars reported.

“Today, Sadra Company is able to build all sorts of oil tankers as well as battleships and fishing vessels in collaboration with the Khatam ol-Anbia Headquarters,” Mohammad said at the launch. “Sadra has completed the maintenance of 18 oil platforms at the South Pars oil zone and created jobs for a large number of workers.”

In November the Iran Shipbuilding and Offshore Industries Complex claimed Iran was self-sufficient in building oil and gas platforms. US sanctions have largely blocked co-operation with foreign companies in this and other fields.

In previous years, former lawmakers such as Ahmad Tavakkoli and Ali Motahari as well as political activists and private-sector businesses protested against they said was the IRGC privileged status in winning government projects. Few financial reports are released by IRGC-affiliated operators while the Assembly of Experts, which is tasked with publishing their returns, has never done so. The Rouhani administration has often complained that these institutions do not pay taxes on hefty profits.

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