In the first of the three-part investigation into the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Reuters reveals that he controls a vast but little-known organization worth tens of billions of dollars, an empire built by seizing properties from ordinary Iranians. The organization, Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam, now holds stakes in just about every industry in Iran, Reuters reports—from oil to ostrich farming—with at least $95 billion in assets. And though there's no evidence Khamenei has spent any of the money on himself, it gives him great power, allowing him financial independence from Iran's government.
Setad says it is just acts as a "custodian" of "property without owners," but those who have had their property seized say this isn't the case. They tell Reuters that Setad obtains court orders for the properties by saying they were abandoned, or the owner is an enemy of the regime. It then auctions the real estate off, or forces the owners to pay "protection fees" on the property if they want it back. One man's property was appraised at $90,000 by Setad. The protection fee? $50,000. Religious minorities are often targeted—especially Baha'is—and some say men have showed up at their door, threatening violence if they didn't leave their properties. Click through for the full report. (Read more Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stories.)