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Business tycoon Babak Zanjani withheld billions of pounds in oil revenue

Babak Zanjani, who is said to be worth around £9.5 billion has been sentenced to death in Iran for corruption.

Zanjani began his trade selling sheepskins in the 1980s before going on to becoming a key player in selling Iran’s oil in the years when strict international sanctions were imposed over the country’s nuclear programme.

He managed to establish one of the biggest enterprises in Iran’s recent history, a holding that was involved in everything from owning football clubs to selling oil, transport to construction and banking both inside Iran and abroad.

Zanjani’s long trial was held in public – a rarity for such a major case in Iran, with the 41-year-old business man eventually convicted of fraud and economic crimes.

Zanjani was accused of withholding billions of dollars in oil revenue which he funnelled through his companies.

The business mogul was reportedly arrested one day after president Rouhani ordered his government to fight financial corruption.

He denies the charges, saying that international sanctions had stopped money being forwarded to Iran’s central bank.

Two other defendants were found guilty of ‘corruption on earth’, the gravest offence under the country’s criminal code, meaning they will also face the death penalty.

As well as facing the death penalty Mr Zanjani will also be forced to repay money to the state, judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie said at his weekly press conference.