DUSHANBE, January 27, 2015, Asia-Plus -- The head of the State Committee on Investment and State-owned Property Management of Tajikistan (GosKomInvest), Qodir Qosim, claims that Iranian tycoon Babak Zanjani has never invested in Tajikistan.

“Iranian businessman Bbak Zanjani has no property in Tajikistan,” Qodir Qosim told reporters in Dushanbe on January 27.

According to him, Babak Zanjani participated in an official opening of the Dushanbe renovated bus terminal on March 12, 2013 as a honorable guest but not as an investor.    

However, some sources say Babak Zanjani’s Tajik empire includes a bank, an airline, a taxi service and a bus terminal. 

In December 2012, the European Union sanctioned Zanjani for being “a key facilitator for Iranian oil deals and transferring oil-related money. Zanjani owns and operates the UAE-based Sorinet Group, and some of its companies are used by Zanjani to channel oil-related payments.”

In April 2013, the U.S. Treasury Department targeted Zanjani and a Malaysian bank under his control, along with “an international network of front companies” including Sorinet Commercial Trust.  US officials believe the Zanjani-connected entities are “moving billions of dollars on behalf of the Iranian regime.   

Dubai-based Sorinet Commercial Trust Bankers (SCT Bankers) and Malaysia-based First Islamic Investment Bank (FIIB) were reportedly designated for providing financial, material, technological or other support for Naftiran Intertrade Company Ltd (NICO) and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).   

Turkey-based Kont Kozmetik was designated for being owned or controlled by Babak Zanjani.  Founded by Zanjani in 2007, Kont Kozmetik in 2011 bought Kont Investment Bank in Tajikistan.  Kont Investment Bank owns 100 percent of shares in Asian Express Airline, which on its part, assumes the 100 percent ownership in Dushanbe’s Bus Terminal.

Representatives of Kont Investment bank do not deny that Kont Invest Bank was founded by Babbak Zanjani, but they say that now a Turkish citizen assumes the 100 percent ownership interest in Kont Investment Bank.

Babak Zanjani was arrested by Iranian police on December 30, 2013 for his alleged role in a corruption scandal.  Some days later, a spokesman from the National Bank of Tajikistan, Abdughaffor Qurbonov, denied any cooperation between Zanjani and the bank and claimed all documents presented by Zanjani about their two-way communications were fake.

The Iranian authorities have accused Babak Zanjani of embezzling US$2.7 million of oil funds.

Some media sources reported at the beginning of this year that Iranian legislator Amir Abbas Soltani, who is a member of the investigative committee set up in 2013 to find the money allegedly embezzled by Babak Zanjani, said that Zanjani’s representative had paid 3 million U.S. dollars to one of deputy heads of Tajik central bank for falsification of money transfer documents.

Besides, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh reportedly said in an interview on state television on August 11, 2014 that Zanjani used the Tajikistan branch of his own bank, First Islamic Investment Bank, to funnel the money out of Iran.

The NBT head Abdujabbor Shirinov denied allegations that Iranian tycoon Babak Zanjani gave bribe to one of deputy heads of Tajik central bank as absolutely baseless.

“We have repeatedly denied any cooperation between Zanjani and Tajik central bank,” Shirinov stated at a news conference in Dushanbe on January 20.

Tajik central bank head stressed that that issue had been discussed at a meeting with top managers of Iranian Central Bank and “they were convinced that the National Bank of Tajikistan has nothing to do with Babak Zanjani’s fraud case.”