Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Two companies linked to Iranian armed forces 'win' national data center contract in rigged bidding

Two companies closely linked to the Islamic regime's armed forces have won a massive contract to run the national data center after a call for bids was canceled by the government, according to Sarmayeh daily

Information Systems Iran, known as ISIRAN, and Zaeim Electronic Industries were awarded the contract after the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a directive which rendered the project confidential and annulled the call for tenders. The national data center will house the digital information and documents of the state's various bodies.

This development comes after the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) bought a controlling stake in the Telecommunication Company of Iran through a proxy, the Tosse'eh Etemad Mobin consortium, in what was hailed as the biggest deal in the history of the Tehran Stock Exchange in late September. A private company, Pishgaman Kavir Group, had been disqualified from bidding on security grounds the day before the winner was to have been announced. The other group left in the competition, Moaseseyeh Mehr Eghtesadi Iranian, was also controlled by the IRGC through the Basij militia. (For more on the Iran telecom sale, go here)

The Telecommunication Infrastructure Company, under the control of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, had organized the call for tenders for the national data center. Four entities had responded to the call and purchased the bidding documents: Tacfam, ISIRAN, Zaeim, and a consortium made up of seventeen companies. Last month, TIC announced that a winner had been chosen, but did not name the group. After the government's directive was issued, the call for tenders was cancelled and ISIRAN and Zaeim were declared the joint winners. They will collectively run the national data center.

ISIRAN and Zaeim's connections to the armed forces have provoked concern given increasingly frequent indications that the IRGC is extending its influence not only into the country's political and security structures, but also into the economy.

In May 2003, German police halted the export of 44 high-voltage switches which were being dispatched to Zaeim Electronic Industries, according to the Wall Street Journal. The switches propagate powerful sound waves that can be used to dissolve kidney stones or sterilize food. They can also be employed as triggers for nuclear weapons. The switches had been ordered by German businesswoman Eva-Marie Hack on behalf of naturalized Swedish citizen Eddie Johansson, an Iranian native whose name at birth was Hojjat Naghash Souratgar. In a factually and semantically challenged statement, Zaeim Electronic Industries said, 'We strongly deny that we have been in the way of acquiring military equipment nuclear.'

ISIRAN's military links are more clearly established. It is a subsidiary of Iran Electronics Industries - company motto 'Western performance, eastern price' - which builds, among a diverse range of products, missile launchers and tactical communication systems. The public relations office of the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics describes ISIRAN's principle mission as 'technical, training, and refurbishment support of the Armed Forces computer services.'

In an article published last year, Gooya News reported that the main staff of the Ministry of Defense had been moved to the ISIRAN building in Tehran's Nobonyad Square, which happens to be the postal address of Parchin Chemical Industries, which is under UN sanctions for proliferation transgressions.

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