Iran Economy NewsBank Robbery at Tehran’s Most Secure Zone in Bright...

Bank Robbery at Tehran’s Most Secure Zone in Bright Daylight

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“Professional robbers stole more than 160 safe boxes” at a branch of the Bank Melli, authorities say.

— The state-run TV says that the robbery took place on holiday while the holidays ended on Sunday, June 5—unless it had happened before, and the regime had concealed it.

— The bank is located in one of the most crowded and secure zones — in front of Tehran University, 500m away from the Presidential Palace, at the street leading to the Supreme Leader’s Office and Judiciary Center, and 100m away from a State Security Forces (SSF) base.

— There are too many unmarked intelligence and security bases to quell protests before reaching the offices of Khamenei and Raisi.

On Monday night, June 6, a group of thieves stole more than 160 safe boxes from the Bank Melli — the Tehran University branch. The Iranian state-run TV and Radio (IRIB) touted the robbery as a Hollywood movie scenario; however, observers believe the reality is completely different due to the evidence found.

The robbery has severely worried many people. On Wednesday, a group of citizens, who had lost the contents of their safe boxes in the robbery, flooded onto the street and rallied outside the bank. In response, the SSF fired shots into the air to disperse outraged protesters, rather than address their concerns. The protesters gathered chanted “Disgrace, disgrace,” venting their anger over the regime’s atrocities.

Authorities’ Weird Explanations

Iranian authorities claimed that the robbery took place during holidays, despite the holidays ending a day earlier on June 5. This is unless the regime had concealed the theft and declared it late, which increased doubts. Four days after the robbery, the SSF proclaimed that its ‘skilled detectives’ had succeeded in detaining the thieves.

On June 11, SSF chief in Tehran Hossein Rahimi, highlighting the ‘elite operation’ of his forces, said, “Our forces did not rest for a week.” Rahimi’s remarks later raised a wave of criticism and sarcastic comments. Netizens mocked Tehran’s SSF chief, saying, “How did his forces ‘not rest’ for a week when the robbery took place just five days ago. Does the SSF know more about the event but are hiding it?”

Several people have addressed fugitive officials, such as Mahmoud Reza Khavari, the former chairman of the Bank Melli and Bank Sepah, who is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), stating, “Nice job, but why has the SSF failed to find the thieves of oil rigs,” referring to state-backed officials’ plunder and embezzlement in petroleum facilities. Khavari notably fled the country to Canada with a $2.6-million embezzlement case back in 2011.

Noting Rahimi’s use of the term “the holidays”, it appears that he explicitly admitted that the robbery did not occur in a single day, and instead lasted several days. Due to the intensive security measures in this zone, this is a debacle for the SSF if Rahimi was right and has told the truth.

The bank that was targeted is located at Enghelab [Revolution] Street, in front of the well-known Tehran University— in one of the capital’s most crowded districts. The bank is also only 500 meters away from the Presidential Palace, with the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s office and Judiciary Center located a little further away. In the area, there are many secret security bases nipping potential protests in the bud before reaching the offices of Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi.

Bank Melli—Tehran University branch—located in a security zone, near sensitive government offices
Bank Melli—Tehran University branch—located in a security zone, near sensitive government offices

The event greatly shocked state-run media. The Shargh daily cited Iran Daily’s correspondent at the cabinet Morteza Golpoor’s tweet on June 8, which stated, “[Robbers] emptied 1,000 safe boxes in one of Tehran’s most security streets while there is a police station 200 meters farther, and the offices of president and judiciary are located 500 meters farther.”

According to the police, the thieves used professional, heavy equipment to open the safe boxes. They had primarily disrupted security cameras and garnered and taken all servers with them after the robbery. The authorities are avoiding providing actual facts of the case, further prompting public suspicions.

The Asr Iran website quoted “reformist” Abbas Abdi on June 8, saying, “Bank Melli robbery did not carry out by ordinary thieves… It has targeted security rather than stealing some cash and gold. Consider it as an act of terror, not a robbery.”

‘Officials Designed and Plundered Safe Boxes,’ Citizens Say

Authorities have also refused to declare the real number of the plundered safe boxes. Primarily, Iran’s state media reported that the thieves stole more than 160 boxes, while several experts have claimed that the number of plundered boxes was around 170. However, in Khabar Online’s June 10 report, they mentioned about 250 to 400 safe boxes.

Many citizens believe that the robbery was a government scheme. They point to the recent law added to the Islamic Republic Penal Code, saying, “Transportation and storage of more than €10,000 is an example of currency smuggling.” The law was put into effect on April 30, and violators will be punished for 15 to 20 years in prison, and the death penalty in some cases.

In his interview, Rahimi declared that the SSF had delivered the stolen properties to the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), and those people whose savings have been plundered can refer to the CBI to take their belongings. Notably, the Bank Melli had already refused compensation for the lost properties, saying that they did not know what the people had held in their safe boxes!

Observers have said, “In such circumstances, dare someone claim that they have lost more than €10,000, which is equivalent to life imprisonment or death sentence? Indeed, the regime applied this scenario to ‘legally’ plunder people’s property.”

This is another view of the mullahs’ 43 years of corruption and plunders under the banner of religious decrees. Such plundering, of course, expands the gap between society and the state, shrinks the regime’s social base, and fuels public outrage and hatred against the entire ruling system, which relies on robbery, embezzlement, and crimes to ensure its survival.

During a lecture in February 2018, the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei described that “The corruption looks like a seven-headed dragon. Every time you cut one head; it still comes to you with another head.” Today, the people of Iran have grasped that the Supreme Leader and his office, which controls a $200-billion-worth business, is the heart of this dragon. “The people beg, [Khamenei] lives like God,” citizens from all different walks of life chant today, venting their anger over the entire regime.

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