Iran sacks heads of four state banks over high pay

Khamenei called for immediate action

TEHRAN - Iran has sacked the heads of four public banks after their exorbitant salaries sparked widespread criticism and an intervention by the Islamic republic's supreme leader, state news agency IRNA said Thursday.
"At the request of the president to investigate the issue of salaries, the heads of Mehr Iran, Mellat, Refah and Saderat banks have been replaced on the orders of the economy minister for receiving unconventional salaries and loans," IRNA said, quoting an unnamed official.
Economy Minister Ali Tayebnia heads the general assembly of public banks in Iran and appoints their top executives.
Saderat's CEO, Esmaeil Lalehgani, had said earlier that he was stepping down after the salary revelations out of "respect" for the people.
Investigations launched by President Hassan Rouhani's government came after Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last Wednesday called for immediate action.
"The issue of astronomical salaries is in fact an attack on (our) values, but everyone should know that they are among exceptions," Khamenei said in an address to Rouhani and his cabinet on June 22.
"This issue must not be delayed. It should be seriously followed up and the people must be informed of the results."
Earlier this month, the government launched an investigation into public pay following reports that executives at the state insurance regulator were earning more than 50 times the base government salary.
Critics of Rouhani have been demanding answers on behalf of struggling Iranians who have yet to see the promised economic benefits of the country's nuclear deal with world powers sealed last year.
After weeks of criticism in conservative media, the government newspaper Iran hit back on Monday with a report on payments received by a senior manger appointed by the country's former hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The pro-Rouhani moderate and reformist camp in Iran accuses Ahmadinejad government officials of widespread economic corruption.
In March, Iranian tycoon Babak Zanjani was sentenced to death over fraudulently pocketing $2.8 billion.
Zanjani was a key figure in devising methods to channel hard currency from Iranian oil exports during the sanctions-hit era of Ahmadinejad's presidency before the nuclear deal.