October 6, 2018 / 2:46 PM / in a month

Fraud-accused businessman returns to Iran: state media

DUBAI (Reuters) - An Iranian businessman accused of defrauding thousands of investors was returned to Iran with Interpol’s help on Saturday after he fled abroad, state media reported, a week after Tehran sentenced three people to death in a drive against economic crimes.

Courts set up in a campaign against economic offences handed down out death sentences to three defendants last week, following renewed U.S. sanctions and a public outcry against profiteering and corruption.

“Farhad Zahedifar, CEO of ... the Samen Coin website, who defrauded thousands of people of hundreds of millions of dollars was returned to the country with the assistance of Interpol,” state television quoted an Iranian police statement as saying on Saturday. It did not say where Zahedifar was arrested.

In a video carried by state broadcaster IRIB, a blindfolded man who identified himself as Zahedifar denied he had fled Iran.

“I could not return because of threats by website users (investors),” he said after being escorted by agents off a plane. The online company sold gold coins, which have been in high demand during a rapid decline by Iran’s currency.

Kamal Hadianfar, head of Iran’s cyberpolice, said 1,700 complaints had been registered against Zahedifar, state news agency IRNA reported.

The rial currency has lost about 70 percent of its value since April under the threat of revived U.S. sanctions, with heavy demand for dollars among ordinary Iranians trying to protect their savings.

The cost of living has also soared, sparking sporadic demonstrations against profiteering and corruption, with many protesters chanting anti-government slogans.

Investors in a number of allegedly fraudulent schemes have been active in street protests, demanding action by authorities to reimburse them.

In August, Iran set up the special Islamic courts to try suspects quickly after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for “swift and just” legal action to confront an “economic war” by enemies.

Reporting by Dubai newsroom, Editing by William Maclean

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