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Iran Sanctions Aren’t Hurting the Ayatollah

Reuters reports Ayatollah Ali Khamenei runs a $95 billion empire

Adam Chandler
November 20, 2013

Author’s Note: The video below is the soundtrack for this post. It does contain a few swears.

As the new round of nuclear negotiations kicks off, the crux of the haggling between the P5+1 and Iran is what the latter will have to give up in order to ease the crippling sanctions against it and whether it will agree. However, as Iran’s economy continues to feel the strain of its international isolation, there’s one person who’s not suffering: The Supreme Leader himself, who is now richer than the Shah of Iran could ever have dreamed of being before he was overthrown in 1979.

Last week, Reuters published an investigation about the assets of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and found that he sits at the helm of an organization, an empire really, estimated to be worth nearly $100 billion.

Setad has become one of the most powerful organizations in Iran, though many Iranians, and the wider world, know very little about it. In the past six years, it has morphed into a business juggernaut that now holds stakes in nearly every sector of Iranian industry, including finance, oil, telecommunications, the production of birth-control pills and even ostrich farming.

The organization’s total worth is difficult to pinpoint because of the secrecy of its accounts. But Setad’s holdings of real estate, corporate stakes and other assets total about $95 billion, Reuters has calculated. That estimate is based on an analysis of statements by Setad officials, data from the Tehran Stock Exchange and company websites, and information from the U.S. Treasury Department.

According the report, the organization also seizes and then sells the property of ordinary Iranian citizens. Yesterday, the Iranian state media denied the story, claiming it was meant to destroy “people’s trust.”

I think the Supreme Leader should own it. Put Ayatollah Ali Khamenei anywhere on Allah’s green earth, he’ll triple his worth.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.