A top official of the Central Bank of Iran has been arrested by security officials amidst rising economic woes being faced by Iran in the face of imminent sanctions by the United States.
Ahmad Araghchi, who was a vice-governor at the Central Bank in charge of forex, was arrested along with several other unnamed individuals which included a government clerk and four currency brokers.
Araghchi, a nephew of Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, was fired by the new governor of the central bank over his handling of the currency crisis. He was replaced with Abdolnasser Hemati, the former head of Central Insurance of Iran.
The arrests come as Iran braces for the re-imposition of sanctions by the United States on Tuesday following Washington’s withdrawal from a multinational nuclear deal with Iran.
Iran has been rocked by protests driven by concerns over water shortages, the economy and wider anger at the political system in key cities such as Isfahan, Mashhad and Shiraz. However, severe reporting restrictions have made it impossible to verify social media footage and official accounts of the protests.
Journalists in the country had reported a heavy build-up of riot police on Sunday night, including at least one armoured personnel carrier in the town of Karaj, west of Tehran which has been at the epicenter of anti-government protests.
State media reported that protesters attacked and tried to burn down a seminary in the area on Friday night and demonstrators had allegedly killed one person.
The President Hassan Rouhani has faced heavy criticism from conservative opponents who have demanded action on corruption as well as renewed efforts to rescue the economy.
The President’s cabinet announced it was easing foreign exchange rules in an effort to undo a disastrous attempt to fix the value of the Rial, Iran’s currency back in April.
The monetary deceision in April as well as fears over renewed US sanctions fuelled a run on the currency that saw it lose more than half its value.
Reacting to the Protests, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Nouri-Hamedani, one of the country’s top religious figures released a speech saying,
“People are upset when they hear that someone has embezzled billions while other people are living in tough conditions” he further said that “all economic corruptors must be punished”.