Last week, a spokesman of the Iranian regime’s judiciary announced in a press conference that Bijan Zanganeh, the former oil minister for the regime’s seventh, eighth, eleventh, and twelfth administrations, was present in the criminal court in regards to the Crescent case.
Regarding the inquiry of Zanganeh’s accusations, Massoud Satayeshi said, “The expert discussion has been completed in full and the next meetings will be held in the coming days and the results will be announced.”
The Crescent case is a highly prolonged and complicated dispute in the regime due to the scale of mass corruption surrounding it. So much so that even the regime themselves could not condone the crimes implemented in this case.
This dispute is concerning a gas contract between the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and Crescent Petroleum. Initial negotiations began in 1997 and led to an ambiguous joint agreement in 2001. They agreed that the regime will transport Iran’s gas from the Salman oil and gas field, part of which it shares with the UAE, to the Crescent company for 25 years. At the time, Crescent negotiated a fixed purchase price of 18 USD per barrel for the first seven years, which would increase to 40 USD for the subsequent 18 years.
Over the past few years, many of the regime’s media outlets have spoken about a large amount of bribery in this case, and have stated that the Iranian people are enduring losses to the extremely low price of the sold gas.
The entire contract is worth about $ 18 billion, which shows why many of the regime’s officials involved in the procedure of this contract are suspected to be involved in the corruption. Zanganeh and members of the board of directors of the National Iranian Oil Company, with the consent of the Emirati company, had decided to keep the provisions of the Crescent gas contract secret.
Due to the shame of the scandal, this dispute has caused, the regime has canceled its side of the contract. During the negotiations with Crescent Oil Company of the United Arab Emirates, the regime’s then-oil officials were supposed to export Iranian gas to the country at a bargain price from the Salman oil field and pocket the difference between the main gas price and the price stated in the contract. The full extent of this great corruption is unknown, but the people involved made, or were trying to make, profits of tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.
At the time, Hassan Rouhani was the secretary of the regime’s Supreme National Security Council. In a critical letter to Khatami’s oil minister Bijan Zanganeh, he described the ‘price and contract terms’ at Crescent as ‘very unfavorable’ compared to other contracts in the region.
Rouhani went on to describe the Crescent contract in three ways: ‘First, the lack of a valid guarantee in the contract, second, the invalidity of the Crescent company, and third, inappropriate price and contract conditions.’
Crescent was first mentioned in public and in the media in the mid-2000s. This name has been associated with the name of Iran’s ‘oil general’ Bijan Zanganeh, for many years. Iranian state news agencies have said that one of the ‘intermediaries in concluding this contract, who did not reach his brokerage right’, had provided the information of this contract to the officials of the Court of Audit at the time, and finally disclosed this disaster.
Mohammad Reza Rahimi, the former head of the Court of Audit, who is said to be in prison, was the person who ordered the suspension of the Crescent contract in 2005. In his interviews, he took a hard line against Zanganeh, calling the signing of the agreement a ‘betrayal of Iran’.
This termination order is what eventually led the Emirati Crescent Company to sue the regime in 2009 in The Hague. The company, with its professional lawyers, was able to oust the Iranian regime and, after several years of litigation, it was able to fine the regime for the first part of the contract, which included seven years of gas exports, and amounted to $607 million dollars.
Bijan Zanganeh, and other officials of the regime’s Ministry of Oil, made extensive efforts in the 2000s in order to conceal or clear the traces of their corruption. Their work led to bribery, deception, threats, and even the physical removal of those aware of the contract. However, despite their efforts, none of these actions assisted them in covering their tracks.
In 2013, immediately after the Crescent contract hearing, the security forces of the regime abducted Abbas Yazdan Panah Yazdi, an Iranian-British oil broker living in Dubai, and transferred him to Iran where they reportedly killed him.
Yazdan Panah Yazdi had testified against the regime in The Hague and had angered the officials of the regime. The trial ended, to the detriment of the regime whose officials are mired in corruption, and it is predicted that the regime will most likely lose the next trial which is scheduled to be held in Paris in September 2022.
The latest trial is said to be focused on the second part of the contract. In this part of the contract, the regime was obliged to export its gas to the United Arab Emirates for 17 years. Experts have predicted that a fine of 10 billion dollars, will be waiting for the regime following the trial’s conclusion.
It may not be important for the ruling regime in Iran, which ranks 140th in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, to pay huge damages to the UAE, but for the people of Iran, who are now starving and struggling to survive, this is a huge amount of the country’s wealth from their pockets.