54-million-euro check found in Iran ex-official’s luggage

Former finance minister caught with Venezuelan bank draft

Madrid -

German authorities stopped a former Iranian government minister as he entered the country with a mysterious check drafted on a Venezuelan bank account worth about 54 million euros, local media reported on Sunday.

The incident occurred on January 21 when Iran's former Finance Minister Tahmasb Mazaheri was searched at Düsseldorf international airport after arriving on a flight from Turkey. He only declared some 5,000 euros in different currencies.

A further search revealed that he was carrying a check for 300 million bolivars drafted on a Banco de Venezuela account. On Tuesday, Efe news agency reported that the former government official could face just a fine of one million euros for not declaring the check, which was found in a pocket inside one of his suitcases.

Forging ties

Under President Hugo Chávez, Venezuela has been forging closer ties with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Besides cooperating in joint oil ventures, Chávez set up a direct airline route from Caracas to Tehran several years ago.

German authorities have not officially identified the Iranian government official by name, but several newspapers in Germany have done so, quoting law enforcement authorities.

The 59-year-old Mazaheri, who served as finance minister from 2001 and 2004, has not given any information as to where the funds were destined.

Iran's ambassador to Caracas, Hojattolah Soltani, said that the money came from a firm named Kayson Venezuela, S. A., which had been given a contract in March 2006 to build low-cost homes in Venezuela. "The check was not made out to him because it wasn't his," the ambassador told Globovisión television network.

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