DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has arrested seven people including a former deputy central bank governor and five foreign exchange dealers for alleged economic crimes, the judiciary said on Sunday as the country prepares to face a return of U.S. sanctions.
“The foreign exchange deputy of the central bank ..., who recently I heard has been deposed, has been detained,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei told state television.
Ejei did not name the official but he appeared to be referring to Ahmad Araghchi, who some media reports had said was dismissed as deputy central bank governor after a wide public outcry and street protests over a rapid fall of Iran’s currency.
The rial currency has lost about half of its value since April because of a weak economy and heavy demand for dollars among Iranians who fear the effects of crippling U.S. sanctions.
The central bank last week blamed “enemies” for the fall of the currency and a rapid rise in the prices of gold coins and the judiciary said 29 people had been arrested on charges that carry the death penalty.
Besides the currency fall, the expected return of sanctions has triggered street protests and a public outcry over alleged profiteering and corruption.
Ejei said a person working in a government department headed by an unnamed deputy of President Hassan Rouhani, four unauthorised foreign exchange dealers and an employee of an exchange shop were also arrested.
In May, the United States pulled out of a 2015 deal between world powers and Tehran under which international sanctions were lifted in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
Washington decided to reimpose sanctions upon its withdrawal, accusing Iran of posing a security threat. A first wave of sanctions are due after a wind-down period which expires on Aug. 6.
Washington will first reimpose sanctions on Iran’s purchase of U.S. dollars, its trade in gold and precious metals and its dealings with metals, coal and industrial-related software.
The United States has told countries they must halt imports of Iranian oil from early November or face U.S. financial measures.
Reporting by Dubai newsroom, editing by David Evans