Page last updated at 15:47 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2003 16:47 UK

Iran leader denies profiteering

By Sadeq Saba
BBC regional analyst

Ayatollah Khamene'i meeting the Tajik president. He criticised US policy in the region
Iran's Supreme Leader attacked rumour-mongers

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has denied rumours his office receives a percentage of profits from all cars sold in the country.

Ayatollah Khamenei's decision to take the unusual step of denying he receives any illegitimate payments shows he is very sensitive about rumours of corruption.

There is a widespread belief among ordinary Iranians that 20% of profits from every car sold in the country goes to the ayatollah as a religious tax, or Khoms.

The story became headline news in Iranian opposition media last week after Iran's ministry of industry announced that the country's state-owned car manufacturers will no longer pay any money to the supreme leader's office.

Although the statement was later withdrawn, it strengthened rumours that Ayatollah Khamenei may indeed receive a hefty cut from the sale of new cars.

His office says that it is rumour-mongering by the enemies of the country in order to discredit the Islamic leadership and has ordered the intelligence ministry to identify those behind the rumours so they can be prosecuted.

But the ayatollah's denials will do little to dispel the widely-held view in Iran that a new class of millionaire mullahs are plundering the riches of the country.

Profile: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
17 Jun 09 |  Middle East

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