According to the Iranian terror group’s former head of security, Saudi intelligence helped fund the group by smuggling valuables like gold and Rolex watches into Iraq and Jordan for sale on the black market.
AMMAN, JORDAN — Though it had been suspected for years, testimony from a former high-ranking official from the Iranian militant opposition group Mujahedeen Khalq (MEK) has confirmed that the group had been covertly financed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For decades, the Gulf Kingdom — known for its general hostility towards Shi’ite Muslims — contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in gold and other valuables to help finance the Iranian Marxist militant group – namely the group’s ultimate goal of instigating violent regime change in Iran and subsequently taking power.
In an interview with Jordan-based news outlet Albawaba News, former MEK head of security Massoud Khodabandeh detailed the covert means through which the Saudis helped fund the group, including regional smuggling networks and black market transactions.
According to Khodabandeh, gold and other valuable commodities, such as Rolex watches, were shipped from Saudi Arabia to Baghdad and then sold on black markets in the Jordanian capital of Amman by Saudi-linked businessmen. The proceeds from those transactions were then placed in offshore accounts tied to the MEK and subsequently used to fund their operations.
Khodabandeh also recounted how the Saudis had even given the group a kiswa – a large drape that adorns the Kaaba shrine in the Islamic holy city of Mecca. Manufactured at a cost of approximately $5 million, kiswas are often worth significantly more than their cost of production given their religious significance.
The former MEK official also told Albawaba that he had personally overseen the transfer of valuables from Saudi Arabia to Baghdad that were then sold in order to fund the group. In one instance, Khodabandeh had smuggled three trucks filled with gold bars from Saudi Arabia to Baghdad along with two Iraqi and two Saudi accomplices. He estimated that the gold contained in the trucks was worth nearly $200 million, all of which eventually found its way into MEK coffers.
Khodabandeh also asserted that Prince Turki bin Faisal al Saud, former head of Saudi intelligence, was intimately involved in the smuggling rings used to covertly fund the MEK. Unsurprisingly, bin Faisal has since become a vocal advocate for the group and has spoken at several of the group’s annual conferences hosted in Paris. At the 2017 MEK conference, bin Faisal stated:
Your efforts to confront this regime are legitimate, and your struggle to rescue all sectors of the Iranian society… from the oppression of the Velayat-e Faqih rule, as was said by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, is legitimate and an imperative. Therefore, advance with God’s blessing.”
Khodabandeh went onto to state that, while former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had once been the main patron of the MEK, bin Faisal who had taken over as the main backer of the group in recent years, asserting that the group had become an “organization run by Maryam [Rajavi, current MEK leader] under the patronage of Prince Turki bin Faisal al Saud.” The former MEK official concluded the interview by stating that the MEK had “changed from a terrorist military organization to an intelligence-based propaganda machine.”
Past Saudi Funding An Inconvenient Truth for MEK’s “Moderate” Makeover
Despite their past as a militant organization responsible for the mass murder of Iranian and American citizens, the MEK has sought to change their image in recent years and reinvent itself as a “moderate” Iranian opposition group and government-in-exile. These efforts have grown in recent years despite the fact that the group has next to no support within Iran and has consistently been characterized as both “cultish” and “authoritarian.”
The MEK’s facelift from terror group to propaganda machine began in the 2000s, kicking into high gear after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had them removed from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2012. The MEK’s propaganda efforts have since kicked into overdrive under the Trump administration, given that President Trump has sought to place “maximum pressure” on Iran with the ultimate goal of regime change. Currently, the Trump administration is stocked with known MEK supporters, including Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton and Elaine Chao, who have received thousands of dollars from the group over the years.
Despite its record of killing innocent civilians, Western media cited, MEK spokespeople and members in its reporting on the Iran protests earlier this year as “proof” that the Iranian people support regime change and the MEK, ignoring the massive pro-government rallies that coincided with the protests. Little mention was made of the fact that MEK fighters have been trained by the U.S. military in the past and share connections with Israeli Mossad. The recent revelations of the group’s connections to Saudi Arabia have also unsurprisingly slipped under the media’s radar.