Elite Iranians Live in Luxury as Rest of Country Feels Economic Strain of Sanctions
Despite international sanctions and increasing isolation, there is a relatively new class of super-rich in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Mehrdad Emadi, an economic advisor to the European Union, likens Iran’s nouveau riche to the oligarch class in Russia, those tycoons who were able by hook, crook, or corruption to acquire dizzying amounts of money at the end of the Soviet era.
“I can only find a comparison during President Yeltsin years in Russia, where you had sort of the old companies privatized, but they were really just a transfer of ownership to people who had good connections to the former Communist Party and KGB,” Emadi told Fox News. “And we are seeing, in my opinion, at least, a very similar process unfolding itself in Tehran.”
Iran’s ultra-rich reportedly are a mixture of the well-connected. There are the people in the banking sector, as well as the technocrats with talent, valued and rewarded by the regime. Then there are the clergy close to the regime, because not all clergy are in lock-step with the hardliners running the country. The elite is rounded out by a segment of the Revolutionary Guard corps who control trade and smuggling, and finally those with their tentacles around the “bonyads,” or charitable organizations, such as the Foundation for the Oppressed and Disabled, that often end up being convenient money-laundering vehicles.
“The sanctions are helping the process of widening the gap, both in terms of income and wealth in society,” Emadi said. “People who are connected to the system in terms of access to foreign currency and ability to sign foreign contracts are accumulating wealth unrivaled in the last thirty-four years of the Islamic Republic’s existence.”