Four sentenced to death over $2.6bn Iran bank fraud

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (December 2011 photo) President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied his government was involved in the scandal

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Four people have been sentenced to death for their roles in Iran's biggest-ever bank fraud scandal.

Two other defendants received life sentences, while 33 more will spend up to 25 years in jail, the chief prosecutor was quoted as saying.

The scandal involved forged documents reportedly used by an investment company to secure loans worth $2.6bn.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year denied allegations that his government was involved.

The identities of the defendants have not been made public.

Impeachment vote

The case broke in September 2011 when an investment firm was accused of forging documents to obtain credit from at least seven Iranian banks over a four-year period.

The money was reportedly used to buy state-owned companies under the government's privatisation scheme.

As part of their probe, authorities froze the assets of an Iranian businessman thought to be the mastermind behind the scam.

The BBC's Sebastian Usher said the firm at the heart of the scandal had moved from a small start-up capital to being worth billions of dollars.

The affair fuelled weeks of political infighting between Mr Ahmadinejad and Iran's ruling hierarchy of clerics.

Economy Minister Shamseddin Hosseini scraped through an impeachment vote in November after conservative hardliners accused him of failing to take action over the fraud.

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