How to Steal a House

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“They described what amounts to a methodical moneymaking scheme in which Setad obtains court orders under false pretenses to seize properties, and later pressures owners to buy them back or pay huge fees to recover them.

“‘The people who request the confiscation … introduce themselves as on the side of the Islamic Republic, and try to portray the person whose property they want confiscated as a bad person, someone who is against the revolution, someone who was tied to the old regime,’ said Hossein Raeesi, a human-rights attorney who practiced in Iran for 20 years and handled some property confiscation cases. ‘The atmosphere there is not fair.’

“Ross K. Reghabi, an Iranian lawyer in Beverly Hills, California, said the only hope to recover anything is to pay off well-connected agents in Iran. ‘By the time you pay off everybody, it comes to 50 percent’ of the property’s value, said Reghabi, who says he has handled 11 property confiscation cases involving Setad.”

A Reuters investigation into the Iranian supreme leader’s $95 billion economic empire, run through an organization called Setad, which makes some of its money by confiscating citizens’ property. Read more on Iran in the Longreads Archive.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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