Iran‘s Oil Ministry has opened a legal case in an İstanbul court demanding the ownership of Onur Air, the Turkish airline that in 2013 was acquired by two allegedly official partners of Babek Zanjani, the controversial businessman who has been in jail pending trial on corruption charges for almost two years in Iran.
According to a report in the Hürriyet daily on Thursday, the ministry filed a case against the budget airline carrier to take over its ownership from Kudret Tuncel and Mahdi Shams, Zanjani’s two alleged partners who paid some $235 million to purchase Onur Air from its Turkish owner in 2013. The ministry is arguing that Onur Air’s real buyer two years ago was Zanjani, according to the newspaper.
Reports in the Turkish media claimed earlier this month that all assets belonging to Zanjani might be confiscated, as is sought in the indictment of his trial, which is known as the biggest corruption case in Iran’s recent history. The deputy chief prosecutor in the case also said this month that Zanjani and his two former partners had spent $235 million from Iran’s oil money to buy Onur Air.
Zanjani, supposedly the richest businessman in Iran with $14 billion in assets, who also has alleged ties with Reza Zarrab, the prime figure in Turkey’s graft scandal, is accused of embezzling $2.7 billion of state money while trading oil for the National Iranian Oil Company (NOIC) on behalf of the Iranian government, along with money laundering and corruption within Iran and in several other countries, including Turkey.
It is the first time that Iranian officials have filed a case against a private Turkish company. Onur Air officials have refused to comment on the issue, telling Hürriyet: “One-sided remarks for an issue currently on trial would be misleading. It is better to talk about the issue on a platform with a chance for questions and answers.”
A member of Iran’s special parliamentary committee investigating Zanjani’s case previously asserted that a significant portion of Zanjani’s illegal money was in Turkey under the management of Zarrab, who was implicated along with four of Turkey’s Cabinet ministers in 2013 corruption investigations that were later closed due to what many believe was government pressure on members of the judiciary.