Nasim Roshanaei – Who is Abdollah Abdi, the investor and executive of the Mazandaran Petrochemical in Miankaleh? This major bank debtor has such strong backing from authorities that he has confidently taken over the Miankaleh Petrochemical project, without any regard for its destructive environmental and economic effects on the Miankaleh wetlands, ecosystem, and the indigenous people of the region. What do we know about his background?
Abdollah Abdi, a major bank debtor who is also the CEO of several companies, is a man who has built a financial empire by getting close to officials. Some consider him affiliated with security agencies, some link him to the Ministry of Intelligence and others to the Revolutionary Guards.
On the other hand, since the license for the petrochemical project in Miankaleh, which is registered on the VIN website under the name “Amirabad Mazandaran Petrochemical Industries Company” but has officially changed its name to “Gohar Mazandaran Petrochemical Industries,” was issued during the twelfth government with the support of Bijan Zangeneh, the Oil Minister of Rouhani’s government, some believe he is close to the reformist front. They interpret the hostile discourse that has formed around the construction of this project in the media as a war between rival political currents.
The biased reaction of Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf to this project led to allegations of his complicity with Ghalibaf. The governor of Mazandaran, several members of parliament, and the Friday Imam of Behshahr, as well as some other officials of this province, are also among Abdi’s supporters.
Roozbeh Eskandari, a hydraulic structures expert and senior advisor to the British Columbia Water Organization, believes the reason for stopping this project is the conflict between reformist and principalist currents. In an interview with Radio Zamaneh about Abdi and his relations with the regime, it is suspected that he is a close contact of Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf.
The connection between Ghalibaf and Abdi was revealed after the Raisi government announced that this project does not have an environmental permit. In May 2022, Ghalibaf, without mentioning Abdi’s name, defended the petrochemical investor in Miankaleh in an open session of the parliament, saying,
“In the past twenty days, an investment that had its administrative path resolved, went to the highest levels, received government permission, and had land allocated to it, and after investing several billion, someone comes along and says that such and such issue should be re-examined and the work stops. What does this mean? If there was a problem, why did you register the land for the project in his name? Why did you give him the deed?”
This company is registered in the official records and VIN. Mohammad Ramazani, representing Nain Cement, is the chairman of the board; Alireza Mehrpejouh, representing Sariye Shomal Production, is a board member; and Ali Bakhtiari, representing Amin Mazandaran Chicken, are among the members whose names are mentioned on these websites.
In the following sections of this research, you will see that Abdollah Abdi is either the chairman of the board or the CEO in all three companies mentioned in the previous paragraph.
From the village of Baye Kola to joining security agencies
Abdi was born in Baye Kola in Mazandaran province, and like the rest of the villagers, his father had no wealth. According to the villagers, he left the village at the age of twenty to join the government’s security agencies.
According to a report written by Leila Morgan in June 2022 on the Entekhab website about Abdollah Abdi’s background, although Abdi owns property and villas in the village, he has kept himself hidden from his fellow villagers since his youth and has only been seen a few times from behind the tinted windows of his car by the inhabitants of this 350-person village.
Abdollah Abdi turns his father’s house in the village into a luxurious palace, and according to the villagers, he monitors his properties and workers with CCTV cameras. Despite the wealth he has acquired, he has not done any good for his fellow villagers. Morteza Gholi Mafi, the brother of martyr Mohammad Reza Mafi, says:
“The only action Abdi has taken for the village has been to asphalt a cemetery where his parents are buried, but he has not employed the villagers in his various factories, only employing his nieces and nephews.”
Some wealthy people start charitable works to show others that they are ethically oriented and philanthropic, and also to pay less tax. According to Mafi, some said that Abdi covers about a thousand people financially through a charity, but if any charitable work has been done, it has not been for the people of Baye Kola. He says that only for a period of one year, five to ten people from the village received financial assistance of 50,000 Tomans from Abdi.
Morteza Gholi Mafi talks about Abdi’s assets:
“He has one house in the village. Near the sea, he owns about two to three hectares of land and there is a building there. It is said that he has buildings in the Yeylaq areas. He owns property in Sari and Tehran. He also has properties abroad. It’s not clear how much wealth he has. I don’t know where he owns property abroad, but he has a seven-story building in Mashhad near the Imam Reza shrine. The village boys have worked on this building. I don’t know how many factories Abdi owns. There’s only the steel factory near our neighborhood, located in Neka. No one from the village works in his factories, only one of his nephews named Ahmad, who is the all-in-one worker in the steel company.”
Other villagers say that in addition to the steel factory on Esram road, Abdi also owns an oil and plastic manufacturing factory.
He has built a villa for himself about 15 kilometers from his birthplace village, next to one of the branches of the Neka River that flows into the sea, surrounded by a four-meter wall. Below are images from Google Maps showing Abdi’s villa in 2019 and 2023.
Radio Zamaneh spoke with a local person, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, about Abdollah Abdi’s villa. According to this person, a few years ago, a flood occurred near the villa of the Miankaleh investor because he had built the villa at the mouth of a river. This made it vulnerable. After the flood, he decided to protect the villa walls from future floods. Therefore, Abdi’s workers changed the course of the river with a loader.
According to this informed source, the change in the river’s course by Abdi has caused the river’s entrance to the sea to become diagonal. This diagonal shape has created a permanent whirlpool in the area, leading to several people drowning each year in this area known as Goharbaran beach.
Fraud and Seven-Year Conviction of Abdi
For people like Abdollah Abdi in Iran, who suddenly amass huge wealth overnight without inheriting it from their fathers, fraud or rent-seeking are accessible tools for acquiring wealth. Abdi initially entered the coupon market on his path to becoming wealthy. According to a villager in an interview with Morgan, Abdi was convicted along with a person named Hamid Rezaei, who was his accomplice.
A report from Raja News also confirms this, adding that Abdi was initially sentenced to seven years in prison at Branch 1045 of the Criminal Court 2 of the Shahid Ghodousi Judicial Complex in Tehran for fraud.
One Abdollah Abdi and Two National IDs
One of the issues that came to light in Abdi’s case was that he had been involved in various companies and financial institutions with two national IDs. In a report published by Shomanews in December 2021, we see the image of a document showing that Abdollah Abdi previously conducted economic activities with a national ID number starting with 499993, and now his national ID starts with the numbers 208180.
According to Shomanews, Abdi not only has two national IDs but also was born in two different counties. His economic activities with the two national IDs are registered and changes in companies are accessible to everyone through the official Rasmio system and announcements in the official newspaper.
This investigation series is to be continued on Radio Zamaneh English in the coming weeks. To read the original article in Persian, click here.