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Iran Warns That Major Currency Speculators Could Face Death Penalty

An Iranian man counts banknotes after exchanging a gold coin for cash in Tehran.
Atta Kenare
AFP/Getty Images
An Iranian man counts banknotes after exchanging a gold coin for cash in Tehran.

In a sign that the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and those announced by the European Union are squeezing Iran, the chief of Iran's judiciary warned that major currency speculators could face the death penalty.

The AP quotes Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani as saying that "depending on the importance of their crimes, some of the economic corrupted can face execution."

As we've reported, Iran's currency, the rial, has taken a beating, dropping in value as much as 30 percent compared to the dollar. Just how bad is it? The BBC has a piece today that explains the situation on the ground. They spoke to a business man in Tehran who imports camera systems for the automatic doors in businesses.

"I agree [to] a price today, but by the time I go to sign the contract the following day the price has already gone up and yesterday's deal has been cancelled," said the man who went only by Sharouz.

The AP reports that stores that sell imported goods "are changing price tags by the hour to keep up with the rial's plunging value."

Here's the AP with the hard numbers:

"The market rate for the dollar now stands at about 18,800 rials, compared with an official exchange rate of about 11,500 rials to the dollar. In December, the market rate was about 12,500 rials to the dollar. Even at the official rate, the rial's value has fallen sharply since Dec. 1, when it theoretically took only about 7,400 rials to buy a dollar."

Payvand, an American site devoted to Iranian news, reports that a few of those who exchange currency on the streethave been arrested by the regime. The site reports that Larijani also blamed the fluctuations on internal forces. Payvand reports:

"In recent weeks, Iran's foreign currency and gold markets have experienced sharp fluctuations, which many analysts have linked to the intensification of international sanctions against Iran. A number of high-ranking Iranian officials, however, have blamed the market instability on disruptive plans implemented by the regime's enemies.

"Ayatollah Larijani said some of the 'problems in the foreign currency and gold markets are created by groups linked to the regime's enemies.' He added that these groups 'have made the market volatile by creating various websites that fabricate rates for foreign currency and gold.'"

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.