Iran is a country ravaged by corruption. Ordinary people have to pay bribes for services to policemen and state officials.
Small businesses and traders have to pay hefty “bonuses” to officials for contracts.
This corruption led many in the establishment to voice concerns over what was seen as the endemic mismanagement of the country.
Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri is a leading figure in the southern city of Isfahan.
In 2002 he publicly denounced the “broken promises of the revolution” and resigned from his post as Friday prayer leader.
In his resignation speech Taheri said, “Some of the privileged progeny [clerics’ sons] and special people, some of whom even don cloaks and turbans, are competing amongst themselves to amass the most wealth and to achieve their own ends.
“The ones who are pillaging the nation’s wealth – yes, on behalf of the ones who think that Muslims’ public wealth belongs to them and consider the country to be their private, hereditary property, I am drenched in the sweat of shame.”
His biggest criticism was aimed at the pro-government militias.
He denounced them as “henchmen of tyranny and the mercenary, unrefined, mad club wielders, with their false ideas and cruel behaviour.”
This widespread unease forced the parliament to appoint Abbas Palizdar, a one-time ally of Ahmadinejad, to investigate senior officials.
Palizdar’s inquiry exposed a network of kickbacks reaching into the heart of the establishment.
This included members of the powerful Council of Guardians, the head of special investigations, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, the intelligence minister and even former president Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani.
The biggest scandal involved some $100 million that went missing during the privatisation of Almakaseb, a large state-run trading company under the control of the son of a leading cleric.
Palizdar found the most corrupt institution to be the powerful Revolutionary Courts, which deal with dissent, drug smuggling and blasphemy.
He found that those with money or influence had little to fear from the courts, even if the evidence against them was overwhelming.
Those who could not pay were shown little mercy.
When Palizdar’s report was repressed he broke ranks and toured universities to expose the corrupt officials and their private projects.
He was arrested in June 2008 and has not been heard of since.